Earlier this month, Elijah Cummings told the House Oversight Committee he chairs that he intended to compel Mazars USA, Donald Trump’s accounting firm, to turn over “statements of financial condition” and audits prepared for the president and his companies.
Previously, Cummings asked Mazars if they would kindly produce the records, but the firm responded that they would not – unless, that is, Cummings issued a “friendly subpoena” (in his words).
“As I am sure you can appreciate, Mazars cannot voluntarily turn over the documents sought in the request”, Jerry Bernstein, a lawyer for the firm said. The situation might be different, however, if there were a “validly issued and enforceable subpoena”.
Cummings initially wrote to Mazars USA chairman and CEO Victor Wahba as part of an investigation into the claims Michael Cohen made during public testimony in February. Specifically, Cummings was curious to know if Trump was in fact in the habit of altering the value of his assets for personal gain.
“Mazars believes strongly in the ethical and professional rules and regulations that govern our industry, our work and our client interactions”, a spokesperson said at the time.
“For more than a decade, Mazars and a predecessor firm signed off on financial statements for Trump that he used when seeking loans”, the Washington Post wrote on April 12, recapping the history and adding that “some of the statements include frequent exaggerations or inaccuracies and were accompanied by a note from the firm saying it was not responsible for the accuracy of the information.”
As you might imagine, Trump isn’t particularly amused with this effort on the part of Cummings, especially considering it could be considered a kind of end-around designed to blunt the administration’s belabored attempts to stonewall Ways and Means on their request for the president’s tax returns.
Well, on Monday, Trump sued Cummings – literally.
“Democrats are using their new control of congressional committees to investigate every aspect of President Trump’s personal finances, businesses, and even his family”, a filing by Trump in the US District Court for the District of Columbia reads. “Instead of working with the President to pass bipartisan legislation that would actually benefit Americans, House Democrats are singularly obsessed with finding something they can use to damage the President politically.”
That, or Democrats are attempting to act in their oversight capacity in order to ensure the country isn’t run by an actual criminal – but you know, “tomayto, tomahto”.
The complaint continues:
Chairman Cummings requested this information because Michael Cohen—a felon who has pleaded guilty to lying to Congress—told the House Oversight Committee that the President had misrepresented his net worth while he was a private citizen. The Committee, according to Chairman Cummings, now needs to “investigate whether the President may have engaged in illegal conduct.” The Chairman claims he can do so because the Oversight Committee can supposedly investigate “any matter at any time.”
Note the pejorative reference to Cohen as “a felon”. Never mind the fact that his “felon” status is directly related to his work for Trump.
Back to the filing:
Chairman Cummings’ subpoena of Mazars lacks a legitimate legislative purpose. There is no possible legislation at the end of this tunnel; indeed, the Chairman does not claim otherwise. With this subpoena, the Oversight Committee is instead assuming the powers of the Department of Justice.
Ahhh, yes – America’s vaunted Department of Justice. Which is currently run by a man who just last week suggested he will use his authority as Attorney General to launch an informal probe into whether the FBI and other US law enforcement agencies illegally “spied” on the president’s campaign, despite not being able to cite a single piece of evidence to support that claim when pressed by lawmakers.
Trump’s decision to sue Cummings is a notable escalation in the ongoing fight between the White House and multiple congressional committees, including panels chaired by Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters, who are engaged in a coordinated effort to extract whatever information can be gleaned from financial institutions unfortunate enough to have a history of dealing with Trump. Last week, Schiff announced he had issued his own “friendly subpoenas” to multiple firms including, of course, Deutsche Bank.
All of this is to say nothing of Jerry Nadler’s House Judiciary Committee, which, in early March, issued dozens of document requests seeking information on possible obstruction, public corruption and abuse of power.
The suit against Cummings is indicative of the lengths the White House is prepared to go to in order to protect Trump. The president, apparently, would rather litigate each and every attempt on the part of lawmakers to get a peak under the hood of his notoriously opaque finances than he would voluntarily release his tax returns. That doesn’t exactly scream “Nothing to hide”.
Administration officials have spent the last several weeks playing up the notion that were Treasury to produce Trump’s returns, it would somehow set a “dangerous precedent” for all Americans. Mick Mulvaney insists Democrats will “never” get the president’s returns.
Read the full lawsuit below4-22-19-Trump-v-Cummings-Complaint