House Republicans are quietly halting the investigation into Trump’s finances

From the left rep.  Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight and Accountability Committee, and Rep.  James R. Comer (R-Ky.), the panel's chairman, during a hearing in Washington in February.  8, 2023. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)

From the left rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), the top Democrat on the Oversight and Accountability Committee, and Rep. James R. Comer (R-Ky.), the panel’s chairman, during a hearing in Washington in February. 8, 2023. (Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times)

WASHINGTON – House Republicans have quietly stalled a congressional investigation into whether Donald Trump improperly profited from the presidency, declining to enforce a court-supervised settlement agreement that required Mazars USA, his former accounting firm, to release his financial records to Congress.

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chairman of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, made clear that he had abandoned any investigation into the former president’s financial dealings — professing ignorance of the investigation launched by Democrats when they controlled the House — and in the spot focused on whether President Joe Biden and members of his family were involved in an influence peddling scheme. “I honestly didn’t even know who or what Mazars was,” said Comer, who was the top Republican on the oversight panel during the last Congress while Democrats waged a protracted legal battle to obtain documents from the firm.

“What exactly are they looking for?” Comer added in a brief statement to The New York Times on Monday. “They’ve been ‘investigating’ Trump for six years. I know exactly what I’m investigating: money the Bidens received from China.”

Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times

He confirmed the end of the investigation into Trump after Democrats wrote to Comer expressing concern that Mazars, the former president’s longtime accounting firm that cut ties with him last year, had stopped releasing documents related to his financial dealings . The top Democrat on the panel suggested Comer had worked with Trump’s lawyers to effectively kill the investigation, a charge the chairman denied.

“It has come to my attention that you may have acted in concert with former President Donald Trump’s lawyers to block the committee from receiving documents subpoenaed in its investigation into unauthorized, unreported and illegal payments by foreign governments and others to then President Trump,” Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, the top Democrat on the panel, wrote to Comer on Sunday.

Comer on Monday denied knowledge of any attempt to coordinate with Trump’s lawyers to block the investigation, but he made clear he did not plan to pursue it. His committee has not issued any subpoenas regarding Trump’s finances.

Democrats fought in court for years to obtain financial documents from Trump’s former accounting firm, and only last year — after reaching a court settlement — did they begin receiving the documents and gaining new insight into how foreign governments sought influence by using the Trump International Hotel . The company has delivered the documents to the committee in batches.

In the letter, Raskin wrote that he had reviewed communications between Patrick Strawbridge, Trump’s lawyer, and a lawyer for Mazars, in which the Trump lawyer indicated he had been told House Republicans would no longer insist on additional document production. On January 19, Strawbridge wrote: “I do not know the status of Mazar’s production, but my understanding is that the committee has no interest in forcing Mazars to complete it and is willing to release it from further obligations under the settlement agreement. “

Raskin wrote that Strawbridge had confirmed that an allegation had been made to him twice by the acting solicitor general of the House of Representatives, who at the time was Todd Tatelman.

Tatelman did not respond to a request for comment, nor did Strawbridge or Mazars’ lawyers.

Democratic staff aides on the committee said they had repeatedly sought written confirmation from Mazars that House Republicans had agreed to release the firm from its obligations under the subpoena and court-monitored settlement agreement. But Mazars said it had received no such release, nor was any filed with the court, which has retained jurisdiction over the case.

Still, Mazars informed the Democratic staff that, as a result of Strawbridge’s allegations, it would cease production after the delivery of a small tranche of documents it had identified as responsive to the subpoena, the letter said.

Enforcement of a court-supervised settlement agreement reached with a Congress during a subsequent Congress under new leadership remains a legally murky gray area. Subpoenas in cases involving the House expire at the end of each Congress, but Mazars had continued to produce documents even after the House changed hands to Republican control. Still, a judge would be unlikely to enforce the settlement if the parties involved were no longer interested in enforcement, according to lawyers for both parties.

The Mazars documents have so far provided new evidence of how foreign governments sought to influence the Trump administration. In November, for example, documents the committee received from Mazars described how officials from six nations spent more than $750,000 at Trump’s hotel in Washington as they tried to influence his administration, renting rooms for more than $10,000 a night.

“In light of mounting evidence that foreign governments sought to influence the Trump administration by playing to President Trump’s financial interests, it appears that you and President Trump’s representatives acted in coordination to bury evidence of such wrongdoing, Raskin wrote to Comer.

At the same time that Mazars has stopped producing documents about Trump’s finances, Comer has stepped up its investigation of Biden and his relatives.

Comer has issued a broad subpoena to obtain bank records for associates of the Biden family, demanding that Bank of America produce “all financial records” for three individuals from Jan. 20, 2009 to the present — a 14-year period, Raskin wrote.

He has particularly focused on John R. Walker, an associate of Hunter Biden, the president’s son, whose business dealings are under investigation by the Justice Department. Walker was involved in a joint venture with executives of CEFC China, a now bankrupt Chinese energy conglomerate.

Raskin accused Comer of using a “wildly overbroad subpoena” to conduct “a dragnet of political opposition research on behalf of former President Trump.”

Comer responded that Raskin was trying to distract “from the real issue here, which is the Biden family’s money trail from China.”

“I now have documents to prove it; Raskin knows it, and Raskin has had a meltdown,” Comer added.

With Congress in Democratic hands, the House Oversight Committee waged a year-long battle to obtain Trump’s financial records from Mazars in one of the major legal sagas of the Trump presidency.

Mazars cut ties with the Trump Organization in 2022, saying it could no longer stand by a decade of accounting it had produced.

© 2023 The New York Times Company

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button