US congressional investigators have intensified their pursuit of President Donald Trump's personal and business financial records by issuing a subpoena to his long-time lender, Deutsche Bank.
The two committees that issued the subpoena on Monday, the House's intelligence and financial services committees, also demanded documents from numerous other financial institutions, including JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup, related to possible money-laundering by people in Russia and eastern Europe, according to three people with knowledge of the investigation.
"The potential use of the US financial system for illicit purposes is a very serious concern," Democrat Maxine Waters, chairwoman of the financial services committee, said in a statement. She added that the panel was "exploring these matters, including as they may involve the president and his associates, as thoroughly as possible pursuant to its oversight authority, and will follow the facts wherever they may lead us".
The subpoenas were the latest attempts by congressional Democrats to collect information about the finances of Mr Trump and his family-owned company, the Trump Organisation, and were immediately condemned by Mr Trump's son Eric Trump. "This subpoena is an unprecedented abuse of power and simply the latest attempt by House Democrats to attack the president and our family for political gain," Eric Trump said in a statement. He added that the subpoenas "set a horrible precedent for all taxpayers".
Alan Garten, the Trump Organisation's lawyer, said the company was weighing its options for potentially blocking Deutsche Bank from complying with the subpoena. Deutsche Bank's long-standing relationship with the president is a central element of the joint committee investigation.
During the past two decades, Deutsche Bank has been the only mainstream bank consistently willing to do business with Mr Trump, who has a long history of defaults and bankruptcies. The bank has lent him more than $2 billion (€1.77 billion), and Mr Trump had more than $300 million in outstanding loans from Deutsche Bank by the time he took office, making the German bank the president’s biggest creditor.
Kerrie McHugh, Deutsche Bank spokeswoman, said the company was “engaged in a productive dialogue” with the committees. “We remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorised investigations in a manner consistent with our legal obligations,” she said.
Adam Schiff, chairman of the intelligence committee, described the subpoena to Deutsche Bank as "friendly" and said the German lender had been co-operative. Several other banks also received subpoenas on Monday seeking records related to business the banks did with people and organisations in Russia and eastern Europe. The identities of those individuals were not clear.
The Deutsche Bank subpoena had been in the works for months, with congressional investigators negotiating the specific demands with the bank’s lawyers. Deutsche Bank had pushed for the subpoena’s scope to be narrowed, arguing that doing so would make it easier and faster for the bank to produce the documents, three of the people said.
An investigation into Mr Trump’s finances has been one of the highest priorities of Democrats since they gained control of the House of Representatives. Another Democrat-controlled committee, the powerful ways and means committee, has requested the personal and corporate tax returns of Mr Trump, who did not release those documents during the 2016 campaign, breaking with a long tradition among presidential candidates.
Mr Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank has drawn the attention of Ms Waters and Mr Schiff. The committees have hired experienced former federal prosecutors and Capitol Hill investigators to help with the investigation, and some committee aides have pushed to further expand the teams, arguing that they lack the resources to conduct a thorough but swift investigation.
While Deutsche Bank has been co-operative, its lawyers have warned that they will have to notify the White House about their plans to hand over Trump-related materials, according to people familiar with the discussions. Investigators have braced for a court fight if the White House or the Trump Organisation seeks to block the bank’s co-operation.
The congressional panels are not alone in investigating the relationship between Deutsche Bank and Mr Trump. New York attorney general Letitia James issued a subpoena to the German bank, and one other lender, in March seeking information about loans to Mr Trump. – New York Times