Trump Sues to Block House Subpoena of His Accountants

Rep. Elijah Cummings speaks during a May 17, 2017, news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Today the Maryland Democrat is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Accusing House Democrats of waging “political war” against him, President Donald Trump sued a top lawmaker Monday to block the subpoena of his longtime accountants.

Prompted by the testimony of Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, Representative Elijah Cummings issued a subpoena last week to Mazars USA LLP for financial documents from various Trump entities.

A Maryland congressman who chairs the House Oversight and Reform Committee, Cummings said he sought the information to corroborate Cohen’s allegations that Trump had misrepresented the value of his assets for personal benefit.

After reviewing several financial statements Cohen supplied to the committee, several of which Mazars prepared, Cummings said in a memo that they “raise serious questions about the president’s representations, particularly relating to his debts.”

But the president contends that Cummings lacks the authority to subpoena the information because of “constitutional limits on Congress’ power to investigate.”

“With this subpoena, the Oversight Committee is instead assuming the powers of the Department of Justice, investigating (dubious and partisan) allegations of illegal conduct by private individuals outside of government,” says the complaint, which Trump filed this morning in Washington.

Arguing that the Constitution lacks an investigations or oversight clause, Trump said Cummings’ subpoena “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

“No investigation can be an end in itself,” the complaint says. “And Congress cannot use investigations to exercise powers that the Constitution assigns to the executive or judicial branch.” 

In his complaint, Trump accused House Democrats of using more than 100 subpoenas to fish for something to damage him politically.

“The Democrat Party, with its newfound control of the U.S. House of Representatives, has declared all-out political war against President Donald J. Trump,” the complaint says. “Subpoenas are their weapon of choice.”

Trump has asked the court to block the subpoena’s enforcement and declare it invalid.

The move is sure to escalate tensions between the White House and the Democratic-led House, which has made earnest use of its subpoena power to request a range of information about the president’s finances and businesses. 

The Mazars subpoena in particular covers a roughly eight-year stretch, largely prior to Trump’s presidency. 

Representative Jim Jordan, a Trump ally who is a ranking member on the Oversight Committee, has urged Mazars to fight the inquiry. 

Jordan wrote to the firm in a March 27 that the subpoena lacked “a valid legislative purpose” and instead sought “to embarrass a private individual.”

Monday’s lawsuit notes Jordan’s objection to the subpoena and says Cummings failed to consult with committee Republicans, instead waiting until the House recessed for Easter before sending out the memo to committee members. 

Cummings’ April 12 memo invited the ranking member and all other committee members to share their views on the subpoena, while noting that his Republican colleagues had not extended that same courtesy to him in the eight years that Democrats were in the minority.

The April 12 memo previews an argument that could play out in court. Cummings has hinged his subpoena on House Rule X, which authorizes the committee “to investigate ‘any matter at any time.'” 

For the chairman, this authority extends to investigating whether Trump committed crimes before or during his presidency, or has any undisclosed conflicts “may impair his ability to make impartial policy decisions.”

The Trump Organization, the Trump Corporation, DJT Holdings LLC, the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust and the Trump Old Post Office LLC joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs.

In addition to Cummings, the lawsuit names as defendants Mazars and Peter Kenney, the committee’s chief investigative counsel.

Representatives for the parties have not returned requests seeking comment.

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