Thursday 17 October 2019

Trump sues US Congressman in bid to halt probe

US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria
US President Donald Trump. Photo: Reuters/Carlos Barria

Eric Tucker

US President Donald Trump and his business organisation yesterday sued the Democratic chairman of the House Oversight Committee to block a subpoena seeking years of his financial records.

The complaint became the latest move in the intensifying battle between the president and Democrats who control the House of Representatives and are committed to investigating Mr Trump and his finances.

The complaint, filed in the federal court in Washington, said the subpoena from Representative Elijah Cummings "has no legitimate legislative purpose" and accuses Democrats of harassing Mr Trump and wielding their new majority in Congress to try to stain the president's standing.

"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," the lawsuit states.

Mr Cummings, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, issued the subpoena earlier this month to Mazars USA, an accountant for the president and Trump Organisation.

He said the complaint "reads more like political talking points than a reasoned legal brief, and it contains a litany of inaccurate information".

"The president has a long history of trying to use baseless lawsuits to attack his adversaries, but there is simply no valid legal basis to interfere with this duly authorised subpoena from Congress," Mr Cummings said.

"The White House is engaged in unprecedented stonewalling on all fronts, and they have refused to produce a single document or witness to the Oversight Committee during this entire year."

The lawsuit accuses Mr Cummings of failing to consult Republicans on the panel before issuing the subpoena and says he relied on the testimony of Mr Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, who told lawmakers in February some of Mr Trump's financial statements contained inaccuracies. Mr Cohen pleaded guilty last year to lying to Congress in 2017 about a Moscow real estate deal involving Mr Trump.

"The Cohen hearing was a partisan stunt, not a good-faith effort to obtain accurate testimony from a reliable witness," the lawsuit says.

The suit amounts to Mr Trump - leader of the executive branch of government - asking the judicial branch to stop the legislative branch from investigating his past. To do so would break decades of precedent which has established the legislature's investigative power is not limited to just researching possible legislation.

The complaint also says the subpoena seeks to investigate events before Mr Trump was president and "has no legitimate legislative purpose". It says: "Democrats are using their new control of congressional committees to investigate every aspect of President Trump's personal finances, businesses and his family."

Jay Sekulow, one of Mr Trump's lawyers, said: "We will not allow presidential harassment to go unanswered."

Irish Independent

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