DAVID GREENE, HOST:
President Trump is trying to block congressional investigators from gaining access to his bank records. Trump, along with his grown children and his businesses, has filed a lawsuit asking a federal judge in New York to prevent two big banks from responding to congressional subpoenas. This suit complains that those subpoenas are overly broad and serve no legitimate legislative purpose.
And let's talk about them with NPR's Scott Horsley. Hi, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: So who are the banks involved here?
HORSLEY: Deutsche Bank and Capital One. Deutsche Bank was President Trump's primary bank. After a number of casino bankruptcies, Trump wasn't welcome at a lot of banks. But Deutsche Bank continued to lend large sums of money to Donald Trump. The bank held mortgages of more than $50 million on a number of prominent Trump properties, including a Miami golf resort, Trump Tower Chicago and the Trump Hotel here in Washington.
Deutsche Bank has, also, a checkered history of laundering money for wealthy Russians. In fact, the bank paid a fine of $630 million for that a couple of years ago. So Adam Schiff, the congressman at the head of the House Intelligence Committee, says part of what lawmakers are looking at here is whether Deutsche Bank acted as a conduit for any foreign financial influence on the president. Deutsche Bank's also been subpoenaed by New York state authorities.
And you might remember, David, Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee that Trump submitted false financial statements to Deutsche Bank when he was trying to raise money to buy the NFL team Buffalo Bills. But the bank said in a statement it's committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by any court order.
GREENE: But the president's argument here is that these banks have no reason to give any of his personal banking information to Congress and respond to these subpoenas. Well, I mean, what is his legal argument here?
HORSLEY: He's saying that Congress's investigative power is limited to its legislative function. And he says there's no legislation that would be served by access to these records. He's also complaining that the subpoenas violate privacy laws that require notice when bank records like this are demanded. The lawsuit really seeks to paint this congressional subpoena as a politically motivated fishing expedition, as if Congress were rummaging around in a dumpster out back of Trump Tower.
At one point, the suit says lawmakers are looking for every credit card swipe and goes on to argue, the dates and times when these individuals purchased books, groceries and other personal items is not the business of the House of Representatives or anyone else. And that kind of trivializes what lawmakers are after here. I dare say, they're not really looking at the president's debit card transactions.
GREENE: (Laughter) They're not just rummaging through the trash...
GREENE: ...Rummaging through the dumpster for whatever they can find.
This isn't surprising at all - right, Scott? I mean, this is a president who has done everything he possibly can to keep his financial affairs out of the public eye.
HORSLEY: That's right. Remember; Donald Trump is the first president in four decades who did not release his tax returns during the campaign. And he continues to hide behind the claim that he can't release those returns because they're under audit. Another congressional committee has demanded that the Treasury Department turn over the president's tax returns, as the law says the Treasury Department must. So far, the administration has dragged its feet on that request. And you know, David, Donald Trump has built his image - he's built his political brand around this picture that was painted by reality television of a successful business tycoon.
HORSLEY: And while there have been plenty of, you know, investigative journalists who've poked holes in that picture, Trump has always fought back very hard. And he's trying here to limit any information reaching the public that might stain that glossy public persona.
GREENE: NPR's Scott Horsley for us this morning. Scott, thanks as always.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you, David.
GREENE: And we do just want to mention here that Capital One is one of NPR's sponsors.
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