President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization filed suit against House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings to block Cummings' subpoena of Trump's financial records. Trump filed the lawsuit this morning in D.C. District Court after Cummings authorized subpoenas for several Trump entities, particularly Mazars USA LLP, the president's longtime accountant.
The complaint reads:
"Chairman Cummings has ignored the constitutional limits on Congress' power to investigate. Article I of the Constitution does not contain an 'Investigations Clause' or an 'Oversight Clause.' It gives Congress the power to enact certain legislation. Accordingly, investigations are legitimate only insofar as they further some legitimate legislative purpose."
The complaint claims that "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. Subpoenas are their weapon of choice," adding that:
"Last week, Defendant Elijah E. Cummings invoked his authority as Chairman of the House Oversight Committee to subpoena Mazars USA LLP—the longtime accountant for President Trump and several Trump entities (all Plaintiffs here). Chairman Cummings asked Mazars for financial statements, supporting documents, and communications about Plaintiffs over an eight-year period—mostly predating the President’s time in office.
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.”
Trump is being represented by William Consovoy, who is also defending him in the fight over his tax returns. Stefan Passantino is representing Trump entities. The two attorneys released a joint statement that reads as follows:
"We welcome the opportunity to represent President Trump and the other plaintiffs in this matter. The committee's attempt to obtain years' worth of confidential information from their accountants lacks any legitimate legislative purposes, is an abuse of power, and is just another example of overreach by the president's political opponents. We look forward to vindicating our clients' rights in this matter."
Trump's latest pushback has left his critics wondering what he could be hiding––and have renewed the call for him to release his tax returns.
The president's suit claims:
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. Its goal is to expose Plaintiffs’ private financial information for the sake of exposure, with the hope that it will turn up something that Democrats can use as a political tool against the President now and in the 2020 election.
Cummings has not responded to requests for comment, but the lawsuit has been criticized by Harvard Law professor and constitutional expert Laurence Tribe, who called the lawsuit "frivolous" and said a judge should throw it out.
The news of the lawsuit came a day ahead of the deadline imposed by House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, who had issued a second formal request for the IRS to release Trump’s tax returns. Neal cited IRS code 6103, a law that states that the House Ways and Means chairman, the head of the Joint Committee on Taxation and the Chairman of Senate Finance can ask for anyone’s personal tax information for their committee’s use.
“I expect a reply from the IRS by 5:00 p.m. on April 23, 2019. Please know that if you fail to comply, your failure will be interpreted as a denial of my request,” Neal writes.
Last week, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders claimed that she doesn’t think Congressional Democrats are “smart enough” to review Trump's tax returns should they manage to obtain them.
Speaking to “Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace, Sanders characterized attempts to obtain the president’s tax returns as “disgusting overreach,” adding:
“This is a dangerous, dangerous road and frankly, Chris, I don’t think Congress, particularly not this group of congressmen and women, are smart enough to look through the thousands of pages that I would assume that President Trump’s taxes will be. My guess is most of them don’t do their own taxes, and I certainly don’t trust them to look through the decades of success that the President has and determine anything.”
Trump is the first president in decades to break norms and not release his tax returns, citing an IRS audit. The IRS has said it does not prevent people from releasing their tax returns even if they are under audit. His other financial records have also been the subject of a long cycle of obfuscation even as Democrats campaigning against him in 2020 continue to make bids for total transparency and release their own financial records.