Donald Trump is down to his last legal redoubt–the U.S. Supreme Court–in his efforts to stonewall Congress and government investigators over efforts to gain access to his financial records and White House witnesses.
In the latest major setbacks, a federal appeals court ruled today (Dec. 3) that Deutsche Bank must turn over detailed documents about President Trump’s finances. The documents are being sought by two congressional committees.
Trump’s only recourse at this point is to appeal to the nation’s highest court.
In a second setback, U.S. District Court Judge Kentanji Brown Jackson issued a 17-page opinion ordering former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify before impeachment committees.
“This Court has no doubt that further delay of the Judiciary Committee’s enforcement of its valid subpoena causes grave harm to both the Committee’s investigation and the interests of the public more broadly,” Jackson wrote.
Jackson also lifted a temporary stay she agreed to only last week as the case made its way to the U.S. Court of Appeals. The Department of Justice, under Attorney General Bill Barr, has argued for an extended stay.
The legal challenges are part of the administration’s effort to stonewall investigators or at the very least, delay a resolution until after the election.
But Jackson said the Justice Department’s chances of winning on appeal are “exceedingly low.”
“Presidents are not kings,” she wrote, ordering McGhan to testify.
Money & Power first reported in April 2017 that federal investigators had targeted the bank for laundering Russian money. The bank has loaned Trump hundreds of millions of dollars for real estate projects under “unusual circumstances,” bankers with knowledge of the loans said at the time.
Trump and members of his family have deep ties to the German bank.
House committees on Capitol Hill have subpoenaed Deutsche Bank and U.S. financial company Capital One, seeking the president’s, his company’s and his family’s financial records. Trump promptly sued to prevent the banks from releasing documents.
The House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees issued the subpoenas in April. At issue are tax returns and other financial documents that the banks obtained from Mr. Trump, his family and his companies going back almost a decade, according to The New York Times.
The subpoenas also demanded information about any suspicious activities that Deutsche Bank detected in Trump’s accounts, according to the paper. Trump was allegedly linked to Russian money laundering through his Florida condominiums and other properties.
According to European papers, where the story is getting major play, Ivanka Trump, husband Jared Kushner, who serves as a White House adviser, and Kushner’s mother, Seryl Stadtmauer, all have accounts at the German bank.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York ruled that “the committees’ interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a chief executive’s distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions.”
Trump’s last hope of blocking disclosure now rests with the Supreme Court. His administration has named two conservatives to the court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, swinging it to a 5-4 conservative majority.
But that’s no guarantee the court will rule in his favor in the face of overwhelming precedent in favor of disclosure.
The justices will likely take up review of the appeal since it’s similar to two cases already pending.
Last month, the Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of a subpoena that the House Oversight and Reform Committee issued in April seeking financial data.
Trump has also filed a petition seeking review of a request from New York state prosecutors who are seeking tax returns from his accounting firm, Mazars USA.