Subpoenaing Banks, House Dems Breach Trump’s ‘Red Line’

Headquarters of Deutsche Bank, left, and Commerzbank in Frankfurt, Germany, on March 18, 2019. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

(CN) — Two years ago, President Donald Trump answered in the affirmative when asked whether a subpoena of his Deutsche Bank financial records would cross a “red line.”

Trump had been referring to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation at the time, but two congressional committees in the control of Democrats ran roughshod over that boundary on Tuesday.

The maneuver marked the fulfillment of a longtime promise of House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, the California Democrat vilified by Trump and his supporters for his forceful pursuit of the Russia investigation.

“Our role is not the same as Bob Mueller’s,” Schiff told The New Yorker in December, revealing his plans for the first time. 

On Tuesday, Schiff adopted a more discreet posture. He declined to elaborate on the scope and scale of the subpoenas against Deutsche and other banks that are as-yet unidentified, except to say the queries look “into allegations of potential foreign influence on the U.S. political process.”

House Financial Services Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters, a fellow Congress member from California, launched a parallel bid investigating “the potential use of the U.S. financial system for illicit purposes.”

The subpoenas follow testimony to Congress by Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen that the president is a “con man” who inflated or understated his wealth to suit his ends, depending on whether he wanted a loan or to buy the Buffalo Bills football franchise.

Bank records that Cohen shared with Congress showed that Trump gave his net worth a major bump in 2013 by adding $4 billion as his supposed “brand value,” a category that did not exist a year earlier.

That testimony and evidence sparked a New York attorney general investigation in March. 

Eric Trump, the president’s son and executive vice president of The Trump Organization, called the subpoenas “an unprecedented abuse of power and simply the latest attempt by House Democrats to attack the president and our family for political gain.”

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.

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. 

Waters and Schiff have described Deutsche officials as cooperative with their inquiries.

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