WASHINGTON – Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee on Friday demanded that Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) subpoena Deutsche Bank in pursuit of documents they believe will reveal improper dealings between President Trump and Russia.
Democratic Ranking Member Maxine Waters (Calif.), who joined four other lawmakers in sending the letter to Hensarling, has repeatedly sought information on the German lender’s so-called Russian mirror trading scheme, which allegedly took place between 2011 and 2015. Deutsche Bank in January agreed to pay more than $600 million in penalties for its involvement in a reported $10 billion money laundering scheme with Russians.
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller is currently leading a special counsel investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government during what U.S. intelligence agencies agreed was a wide campaign influence operation waged by Moscow.
The group of Democrats – which included Vice Ranking Member Dan Kildee (D-Mich.) – in Friday’s letter noted that Hensarling has used his authority to issue 21 subpoenas for various documents and testimony since April. They described how in March 2015 the chairman “vigorously defended” the usefulness and necessity of committee subpoena authority in carrying out constitutional duties.
“It is in furtherance of this Committee’s oversight responsibilities that we call on you to commence an investigation and to use your subpoena powers to obtain the documents that Deutsche Bank is currently withholding from the Committee,” reads the letter, which was signed by Reps. Gwen Moore (D-Wisc.), Al Green (D-Texas) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.).
Anders Åslund, a scholar at the Atlantic Council and former economic adviser to the Russian Federation who has studied Russian corruption, said in an interview Monday that he believes Republicans will be forced to concede and subpoena Deutsche Bank. However, he believes Mueller will obtain the information first, given that he can gather that information independent of Congress. The German lender’s financing of Trump will be a key element to the Mueller investigation of the president, he added.
“There is serious speculation that a Russian state bank has guaranteed Deutsche Bank’s loans to Trump and (Senior White House Adviser Jared) Kushner,” Åslund said.
Reuters reported earlier this year that Trump has accumulated $315.6 million in liabilities to German, American and other lenders. About $130 million of that is owned by Deutsche Bank Trust Company Americas.
The lawmakers contend that getting to the bottom of the matter is “critical to retaining the trust and confidence of Americans who rightfully question the threat to our democracy that could result from Russian financial and political interference.”
Trump and his inner circle have blasted the investigation as a baseless, political “witch hunt.” Waters first raised the subpoena issue with Hensarling in March, calling on the chairman to initiate a “thorough, objective, and bipartisan investigation” into the Deutsche Bank scheme. Without a response on that request, Waters in May wrote to Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan requesting documents about the personal accounts of Trump and his family, as well as information on two internal reviews concerning the mirror scheme.
Waters’ most recent letter describes how the lawmakers are seeking information on a Deutsche Bank review “to determine if loans made to the president were backed by guarantees from the Russian government or were in any way connected to Russia.” The documents are necessary, the lawmakers contend, to determine if the mirror scheme was related to the broader Global Laundromat scheme, which allegedly allowed Moscow to move an estimated $20 billion into Europe, mainly through entities in the UK.
Deutsche Bank declined to release the documents to Waters in June, explaining that the request was not made as part of a “duly authorized investigation” from the committee, noting that there is a distinct difference between requests from individual members and the full committee.
“The Bank did not dispute Congress’ right to compel the disclosure of the information we requested or its obligation to comply with requests made pursuant to duly-authorized investigations,” the letter reads.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has declined to open an investigation on behalf of his committee, arguing that there is already enough focus on the issue with Mueller leading the special counsel investigation.
Rep. Brian Babin (R-Texas) last week wrote a letter to Goodlatte and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, asking that Congress hold a hearing so that Mueller can answers questions about the investigation in a public hearing and “come out of the shadows.” Babin in a Facebook post Friday wrote, “The Special Counsel and his appointed lawyers are arguably just as empowered – if not more so – than any U.S. Attorney, yet they are allowed to operate largely in secret, with each lawyer selected by and ultimately accountable to only Mr. Mueller himself. Serious concerns have been raised about a number of conflicts of interest and political biases surrounding this counsel.”