The House Oversight Committee has issued a new subpoena to accounting firm Mazars USA for a wide swath of records related to former President Donald Trump, which would likely include the ex-President’s tax returns.
Though Trump recently lost his case to hold off a prosecutor in New York from obtaining the Mazars records for a criminal probe, the US House is still fighting for access.
The renewed subpoena went out last Thursday, according to a new court filing on Tuesday, but the return date is on hold as a federal court in Washington continues to review the separation of powers standoff.
Prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney obtained tax records last week that Trump had tried to keep secret for years, just hours after the US Supreme Court denied Trump’s last-ditch effort to keep them private, a spokesperson for the district attorney said.
The millions of pages of documents, sources say, contain Trump’s tax returns spanning from January 2011 to August 2019, as well as financial statements, engagement agreements, documents relating to the preparation and review of tax returns, and work papers and communications related to the tax returns. The documents handed off from Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars won’t be released to the public because they’re subject to grand jury secrecy rules, unless prosecutors were to make details public through criminal proceedings. Trump and others in his organization have not faced charges from the New York district attorney.
But the secrecy rules around the House, if it were to obtain the same records, could be less stringent.
In the subpoena, which was provided in court Tuesday, the Oversight Committee is asking for all financial statements, audits, memos and related documents that Mazars has from its years of work for Trump, from 2011 through 2018. That includes documents concerning Trump himself, his trust, the Trump Foundation, the Trump Organization and several holding companies.
The subpoena also asks for communications between Trump or his company’s employees and accountant Donald Bender, as well as records of documents “related to potential concerns” that information from Trump and the Trump Organization was “incomplete, inaccurate or otherwise unsatisfactory,” the subpoena says.
Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, a Democrat from New York, told members of the committee in late February she would be resending the subpoena, which has gone unfulfilled for almost two years.
She wrote in a memo that the committee is still seeking Mazars’ records about Trump so the House can uncover potential conflicts of interest he had while President and consider legislation in response to “the once-in-a-generation ethics crisis created by” Trump.
“The former President’s contempt for ethics reforms not only caused grave damage to public confidence in government during his Administration, but also set a dangerous precedent for future administrations,” Maloney said. “In the 117th Congress, we have an historic opportunity to turn urgently needed reform measures into law, and the subpoenaed information is necessary to support this effort. Part of this effort will include determining and demonstrating the actual extent of the conflicts of interest, which President Trump has repeatedly denied, in order to urge the Senate to consider and pass vitally important reform measures.”
Mazars has hung back from taking sides in the court fights between Trump and the House over subpoenaed records. Instead, the company has indicated it would comply with courts’ rulings.
Case could lag in court into June
The subpoena is dated with a March 11 deadline, but the Oversight Committee agreed to pause the ticking clock so the judge can resolve the standoff. The case was the first of a trifecta from Trump, where the then-President sued in his personal capacity in 2019 to stop subpoenas that could reveal his financial and business secrets. Cases went to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s claims that he should be given vast immunity from investigations as President.
While the court fight over the subpoena from the New York grand jury investigation moved more swiftly, Trump standoffs with Democratic-held House committees over subpoenas for accounting and financial records have lagged behind, tackling questions about Congress’ investigative powers.
The Oversight Committee and Trump’s lawyers have proposed that a federal judge in Washington, Amit Mehta, schedule to resolve the case no earlier than June.
In additional lingering court standoffs, Trump is seeking to block other House committees from accessing documents from his lender Deutsche Bank. The Justice Department is also evaluating how to respond to a request from the House for Trump’s IRS records — after the department during the Trump administration held off the congressional pursuit in court.
Congress was also unsuccessful in attempting to examine, under the Constitution’s emoluments clause, Trump’s business holdings while he was in office.
CNN reported in December that Democrats in Congress were still intent on investigating Trump and his administration after he left office, including the pursuit of Trump’s tax returns, a drive threatening to complicate then-President-elect Joe Biden’s pledges of bipartisan unity since he won the election.
Democratic lawmakers and aides told CNN at the time that they didn’t intend to delve into all of Trump’s personal scandals once Biden entered the White House, in a nod to his desire to move forward.
But they argued that they have an obligation to scrutinize the actions of Trump and his administration that they charge violated constitutional norms and eroded the separation of powers — particularly in areas that can help efforts to pass legislation curbing the powers of future presidents.