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Democrats Subpoena Deutsche Bank and Others Amid Trump Probe

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A sculpture in front of a Deutsche Bank branch. picture alliance via Getty Images

Congressional Democrats issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank AG and other banks to obtain long-sought documents indicating whether foreign nations tried to influence U.S. politics, signaling an escalation of their probes into President Donald Trump’s finances and business dealings with Russians.

House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff said in a statement that his panel made the requests Monday in coordination with the House Financial Services Committee. JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp. were among firms that got subpoenas along with additional lenders, said two people familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Both congressional panels have been seeking Trump-related material from Deutsche Bank since Democrats took over the House majority in January. Schiff said the Frankfurt-based bank has been cooperative with the investigations and Monday’s request was a “friendly subpoena.” Such a subpoena is typically submitted when a firm is willing to hand over documents but wants a formal request first.

“Deutsche Bank is engaged in a productive dialogue with the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees,” Deutsche Bank spokeswoman Kerrie McHugh said Monday. “We remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations in a manner consistent with our legal obligations. If you have questions concerning the investigative activities of the committees, we would refer you to the committees themselves.”

Eric Trump, the president’s son and executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said the subpoena set a “horrible precedent.”

“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,” he said in a statement Monday evening.

Spokesmen for JPMorgan and Citigroup declined to comment, while a spokesman for Bank of America didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The House Financial Services Committee has long been in talks with Deutsche Bank about Trump-related records, including any tied to Russia. Maxine Waters, the California Democrat who leads the panel, signaled last week that her interest in Russia extended to other lenders as well. At an April 10 hearing where the chief executive officers of the biggest U.S. banks testified, she asked them about customer accounts linked to that country.

‘Very Serious’

While a few of the CEOs acknowledged internal reviews, they revealed little about client activity. Morgan Stanley’s James Gorman said he didn’t know of any suspicious accounts tied to Russians, and Bank of America’s Brian Moynihan said he wasn’t aware of any action related to such accounts. Citigroup’s Michael Corbat was most cryptic, saying he couldn’t comment on any ongoing investigation.

“The potential use of the U.S. financial system for illicit purposes is a very serious concern,” Waters said in a statement Monday. “The Financial Services Committee is 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 Intelligence Committee is more focused on aspects of financial connections or dealings that could suggest potential leverage by foreign entities over Trump, his family or his business. Trump has some $340 million in loans from Deutsche Bank, according to his most recent financial disclosures.

Possible financial leverage wasn’t mentioned in Attorney General William Barr’s four-page summary of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s findings from his 22-month probe of Russian election interference.

Schiff has frequently noted that Trump was pursuing a Trump Tower project in Moscow during the presidential campaign.

“That’s a different form of collusion, but it is equally compromising to the country because it means the president of the United States is looking out for his bank account and not for the United States of America,” Schiff said in an interview on NBC in February.

Schiff and other committee Democrats had sought to pursue Trump’s financial connections ever since he became president. But it was only after Democrats won control of the House in 2018 that they gained subpoena power.

Deutsche Bank had been Trump’s go-to lender for decades, even as other commercial banks stopped doing business with him because of multiple bankruptcies.

House Republicans have said that Schiff and other Democrats are hounding the president with their flurry of investigations and subpoena threats.

“These allegations are coming from the same Democrats who have claimed for more than two years that Trump is a Russian agent, so their conspiracy theories don’t have great track records,” Jack Langer, a spokesman for Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a statement Monday evening.