WASHINGTON — President Trump is having a bad week in court. And the upshot is that Congress may soon get a detailed look at some of his biggest financial secrets.
A federal judge in New York slapped down Trump’s attempt to stop his longtime lender of choice, Germany’s Deutsche Bank, from sharing his financial records with House Democrats on Wednesday. U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos declined to issue an injunction that would stop the production of documents.
The decision marks the second time this week that a federal judge has ruled in the House Democrats’ favor, by refusing to let Trump’s lawyers halt one of his longtime financial services providers from turning over documents sought by Congress.
And it brings Deutsche Bank one step closer to spilling open its vast trove of Trump’s financial secrets. Deutsche has been closer to Trump than any other major bank over the past two decades, and has been widely thought to hold a highly detailed portrait of his financial state within its vaults. The company has also been plagued by scandal in recent years. In January 2017 — the same month Trump became president — Deutsche was fined $630 million by regulators in New York and London over its role in schemes to launder $10 billion out of Russia.
“Deutsche knows more about Trump than any other bank on the planet that we know of, and it appears all that information will get turned over to Congress within the foreseeable future,” said Richard Gordon, who runs the Financial Integrity Institute at Case Western University.
In a statement to VICE News, Deutsche Bank said it would comply with the court’s ruling. “We remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by a court order regarding such investigations,” a company spokesperson wrote.
Lawyers for Trump, his three older children and his company had argued that the subpoenas serve no legitimate legislative purpose, and amounted to nothing more than political harassment. But so far, they have found no sympathy in the courts for that argument.
Speaking from the bench on Wednesday, Judge Ramos dismissed Trump’s legal arguments as “not sufficiently serious.”
Trump has defied Congressional inquiries at every turn, refusing to hand over his tax returns despite a House subpoena, instructing key witnesses to skip Congressional hearings, and fighting Democrats in court with the aim to stretch this saga all the way to election day.
But Trump’s strategy hit a big bump in the road on Monday, when U.S. District Judge Amit Mehta ruled the president's lawsuit to block his longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, from turning over documents to House Democrats had no merit. Judge Ramos followed suit Wednesday, issuing a similar ruling against Trump’s team.
“The judge basically said, ‘Are you fucking kidding me?’,” said Gordon.
Trump’s lawyers immediately filed an appeal in the Mazars suit, but both initial decisions at the District Court level arrived with lightning speed — suggesting the courts may move faster than some legal experts have anticipated.
And the federal courts aren’t Trump’s only problem.
In New York State, a bill that would allow state officials to hand Trump’s state tax returns over to Congress advanced through the legislature on Wednesday, and now merely awaits the signature of New York’s Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo.
The bill’s sponsor, New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, said the state was stepping in to put its weight behind Congress in the face of a defiant president.
“We are affirming Congress’s role as a co-equal branch of government,” he said in a statement to VICE News. “New York has a unique role to help head off the constitutional crisis brewing between Congress and the White House.”
Meanwhile, a confidential IRS memo leaked to the Washington Post on Tuesday appeared to directly undermine Trump’s argument against releasing his tax returns. The memo concluded that Trump must turn over his tax returns to Congress unless he invokes executive privilege as a legal defense.
Speaking to Congress on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has forbidden the IRS to hand over Trump’s tax returns to Congress, said he had “not yet” gotten around to reviewing the memo.
Mnuchin’s stated argument — that Congress lacks a legitimate legislative purpose for the request — is the same one used in Trump’s failed lawsuits this week.
Cover: President Donald Trump walks off after delivering a statement in the Rose Garden of the White House, Wednesday, May 22, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)