MANHATTAN (CN) – President Donald Trump previously declared his financial records from Deutsche Bank to be an investigatory “red line.” Congressional Democrats crossed it earlier this month, and now, Trump wants a federal judge to re-establish it.
Trump drew his battle lines Monday night in Manhattan with a federal complaint joined by seven business entities and three of his children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric.
“This case involves Congressional subpoenas that have no legitimate or lawful purpose,” the complaint states.
The parties named in the lawsuit provide a detailed glimpse of the scope and breadth of subpoenas that the House Intelligence Committee issued earlier this month to Deutsche and Capital One banks.
Bristling at the sheer number of corporate alter egos under congressional inspection, Trump’s attorneys at the law firm Consovoy McCarthy Park suggest — without actually using the president’s slogan — that the investigation is a witch hunt.
“The subpoenas were issued to harass President Donald J. Trump, to rummage through every aspect of his personal finances, his businesses, and the private information of the president and his family, and to ferret about for any material that might be used to cause him political damage,” the 13-page complaint states. “No grounds exist to establish any purpose other than a political one.”
Calling the subpoenas “equally intrusive and overbroad,” the complaint continues: “They seek not only the plaintiffs’ documents, but also the financial records of their parents, subsidiaries, affiliates, branches, divisions, partnerships, properties, groups, special purpose entities, joint ventures, predecessors and successors.”
The identities of those subsidiaries and affiliates hint at the nature of the House’s investigation.
Incorporated a little more than a decade ago in Delaware — a state often described as a domestic corporate tax haven — Trump Acquisition LLC is the entity that signed the letter of intent to build a Trump Tower Moscow in October 2015.
This letter is described more than 20 times in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The Moscow skyscraper negotiations stretched well into the 2016 presidential election season and were so secretive that the president’s former fixer Michael Cohen lied about them to Congress to deter scrutiny.
Trump’s attorneys cried foul in the suit about the time scope of Congress’ request.
“For most of the documents, the committees demand records from the last ten years,” the complaint states. “For others, the request is unbounded — meaning the committees seek records dating back decades, to the individual plaintiffs’ own childhoods.”
Corporate records from Trump’s businesses lay bare why this might be the case. Trump Acquisition LLC and Trump Acquisition Corp. registered in Delaware in early 2008.
DJT Holdings, which D.C. and Maryland prosecutors subpoenaed late last year, was registered there in 2010.
Trump Organization LLC, which filed its first New York record in 1999, describes itself as the president’s “global real estate development and global licensing” vehicle internationally.
House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, whom Trump sued last week for looking into his finances, has expressed “grave concerns” last year about the “president’s refusal to comply with the emoluments clause of the Constitution.”
One place to examine Trump’s foreign cash would be Trump Organization LLC, which Bloomberg reported to be engaged in real estate and property management in Istanbul, Turkey; Panama City, Panama; Seoul, South Korea; and Toronto, Canada.
In a 2015 Breitbart interview with Steve Bannon, Trump acknowledged with a boast: “I have a little conflict of interest, because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.”
Trump wants a federal judge to quash the subpoenas as invalid and unenforceable and issue an order barring the banks from complying with them.
Through this lawsuit, the Trump family and businesses are embracing what some legal observers believe to be a quixotic legal effort. The private intelligence firm Fusion GPS lost its lawsuit against TD Bank last year seeking to block oversight by the House Intelligence Committee, then under Republican control.
“The claims of @realDonaldTrump and his family to avoid congressional subpoenas are not even close to colorable,” prominent attorney Ted Boutrous said on Twitter.
Described as one of the few lenders willing to do business with Trump, Deutsche Bank has been the frequent target of investigations into Russian money laundering. German investigators raided Deutsche’s Frankfurt offices in November, a little more than a year after the bank paid out a $630 million settlement for the same offense.
Indeed, Breitbart founder Steve Bannon speculated to author Michael Wollf in the book “Fire and Fury” that the Russia investigation was a money-laundering inquiry.
“You realize where this is going,” Bannon was quoted in the book. “This is all about money laundering. Mueller chose [senior prosecutor Andrew] Weissmann first and he is a money-laundering guy.”
Ultimately, Mueller’s report — at least, the portion not redacted — had little evidence to support Bannon’s prediction, but House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff has sent signals that he may be pursuing this path.
“Our role is not the same as Bob Mueller’s,” Schiff told The New Yorker in December, revealing his plans for the first time.
As part of his investigation, Schiff has said he wants to know whether Russians used laundered money for transactions with the Trump Organization. Numerous news reports have shown that Russian oligarchs and organized crime figures have purchased units in Trump properties.
Bloomberg dubbed the U.N.-adjacent Trump World Tower a “tower full of oligarchs.” Investigations by NBC, Reuters and Global Witness have tied Russian mafia figures and drug traffickers to Trump Ocean Club in Panama, and Trump has had multiple partnerships with Felix Sater, who tried to negotiate an aborted deal for a Moscow skyscraper that would have included a $50 million penthouse for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The New York entities opposing those subpoenas are The Trump Organization, Inc., the Trump Organization LLC and The Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust. Four Delaware corporations join them: DJT Holdings LLC, DJT Holdings Managing Member LLC, Trump Acquisition LLC and Trump Acquisition Corp.
House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters characterized Trump’s new lawsuit as another example of the president obstructing justice.
“He will do everything that he can to shut down an investigation,” Waters told reporters today, according to Newsweek. “He has cast a gauntlet, and he has said that he’s going to fight.”
Waters and Schiff have described Deutsche officials as cooperative with their inquiries.
Mueller explicitly withheld a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” in Volume II of his report, finding that the Office of Legal Counsel’s guidance forbids it, but he repeatedly found “substantial evidence” that Trump met the elements associates with that crime.
Attorney General William Barr, who overruled the determination that Mueller left for legislators, will testify to Congress on Wednesday.