Sunday 15 September 2019

Trump bids to stop 'political attack' on his presidency

Subpoena for financial information 'not enforceable', claim his lawyers

Political blow: US first lady Melania Trump gets out of a vehicle as she arrives for a visit to Fort Bragg to meet with US troops and their families in North Carolina. Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters
Political blow: US first lady Melania Trump gets out of a vehicle as she arrives for a visit to Fort Bragg to meet with US troops and their families in North Carolina. Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Tom Hamburger

Lawyers for US President Donald Trump have told an accounting firm working for him that it would be improper to turn over tax documents to a House committee that is expected to issue a subpoena for the material.

Last week, the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Elijah Cummings, announced his intention to subpoena Mazars USA after the company refused a March request to hand over Mr Trump's financial documents, citing laws and rules that require a subpoena for such documents.

Democrat Mr Cummings said the company had requested a "friendly subpoena" before it would comply with the request for information related to the Trump Organisation, the president's revocable trust and other entities.

Lawyers for the president and the Trump Organisation wrote in a letter to the accounting firm's counsel that a committee subpoena "would not be valid or enforceable".

The president's lawyers - William Consovoy and Stefan Passantino - wrote that a subpoena from Mr Cummings's panel would be invalid "because it would have no legitimate legislative purpose".

They said "the real reason chairman Cummings wants our clients' financial information is to advance the Democrat Party's agenda of politically attacking President Trump... The Democrats' fervour has only intensified after the special counsel squelched their 'Russia collusion' narrative".

In a statement, Mazars USA said the firm "believes strongly in the ethical and professional rules and regulations that govern our industry, our work and our client interactions".

"As a matter of firm policy and professional rules we do not comment on the work we conduct for our clients," the firm said. "Mazars USA will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations."

The pressure on the accounting firm to resist the looming subpoena comes after the Treasury Department missed an initial deadline to hand over Mr Trump's tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee, which then set another deadline of April 23.

Democrats in the House expect the Trump administration to take the battle over the tax returns to the courts, so they have sought other avenues to learn about Mr Trump's business practises.

The House panel told Mazars that it is seeking the documents to corroborate testimony of the president's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, who told a congressional hearing recently that Mr Trump artificially inflated and deflated the reported value of his assets for personal gain. Cohen gave the committee financial statements he said Mr Trump provided to Deutsche Bank during a 2014 bid to buy the Buffalo Bills American football team.

They showed Mr Trump's net worth soared from $4.55bn in 2012 to $8.66bn in 2013 because of the addition of $4bn worth of "brand value" - essentially the value Mr Trump placed on his name.

Meanwhile, new figures reveal his latest campaign fundraising haul highlights the growing financial dominance of the president's re-election machine.

In the first three months of 2019, Mr Trump's campaign and two affiliated committees raised $39m (€34.5m) - his best fundraising quarter since his election, according to the campaign and federal records.

That brings the total raised by his 2020 campaign and two committees to $130m (€115m), a record for an incumbent president at this point.

All Democratic candidates together raised $82.3m (€72.8m) from January 1 until March 31. At this point in the 2008 election cycle, eight Democratic candidates had together raised $85.4m.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont reported the biggest haul with $18.2m (€16.1m), followed by $12m (€10.2m) raised by Senator Kamala Harris of California and $9.4m (€8.3m) collected by former congressman Beto O'Rourke of Texas. Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, raised $7m (€6.1m) - a large amount for a newcomer to national politics.

Four senators trailed Mr Buttigieg: Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts ($6m/€5.1m), Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota ($5.2m/€4.6m), Cory Booker of New Jersey ($5.1m) and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York ($3m/€2.6m). (© Washington Post)

Irish Independent

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