President Trump really doesn’t want the public to know any details about how he conducts his business. During the 2016 campaign, he defied tradition by refusing to release his tax returns, claiming he couldn’t release them because he was under audit (which isn’t true). This was fine by Republicans, but now that Democrats are in control of Congress Trump has been forced to take extreme measures to stymie lawmakers’ efforts to glean insight into the potential criminality, conflicts of interest and any other unsavory aspects of his financial records.
On Monday, the president went so far as to sue House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), as well as his own accounting firm, in an attempt to block a subpoena of Trump’s accounting firm. The suit reads like an edited, longform tweet from the president.
“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,” it begins. “Subpoenas are their weapon of choice. Democrats are using their new control of congressional committees to investigate every aspect of President Trump’s personal finances, businesses, and even his family. 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 also demands Rep. Cummings reimburse the legal fees Trump incurred in filing the suit.
Donald Trump is suing Congressman Elijah Cummings, the chairman of the Oversight Committee, for issuing a subpoena to Trump's accountant
TRUMP IS ALSO DEMANDING CUMMINGS PAY HIS LEGAL FEES pic.twitter.com/DcsrJK7v2g
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) April 22, 2019
Cummings initially wrote Mazers USA, the accounting firm in question, seeking Trump’s financial records on March 20th, weeks after the president’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, testified publicly before the Oversight Committee that Trump had lied about his finances in an effort to mislead lenders. The company responded, Cummings said, by requesting a “friendly” subpoena to formalize the process, after which it planned to comply with Congress. Last week, Trump’s attorneys tried to pressure Mazers USA into not honoring a subpoena from Cummings, writing that it “would not be valid or enforceable.”
“This complaint reads more like political talking points than a reasoned legal brief, and it contains a litany of inaccurate information,” Cummings said in a statement responding to the suit filed on Monday. “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.”
Suing a Democratic committee chairman is only the latest action the president has taken to prevent his finances from going public. After House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-MA) sent a letter to the IRS formally requesting six years of Trump’s tax returns, the president said he was “not inclined” to comply the request, and, according to the Washington Post, is willing to take the fight to keep his returns secret to the Supreme Court.
Defying the request, which the Ways and Means Committee is entitled to make, would amount to a violation of federal law. Nevertheless, as they did with Mazers USA, Trump’s lawyers wrote a letter to the Treasury Department, which oversees the IRS, pressuring them to tell IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig not to comply with Neal’s request for Trump’s tax returns. While testifying before Congress earlier this month, Rettig, visibly shaking, said he was “working on a letter” to respond to Neal.
Neal initially asked the IRS to comply by April 10th. That deadline was missed, with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin arguing he was busy consulting with the Justice Department about oversight issues, according to Politico. Neal set a second deadline of April 23rd. Whatever response Mnuchin and Rettig do ultimately devise, it’s not expected to include Trump’s tax returns, which he is obsessed with keeping private, for some strange reason.