House Republicans Quietly Halt Inquiry Into Trump’s Finances

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Feb. 2, 2023. (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Feb. 2, 2023. (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)

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

Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., chair of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, made clear he had abandoned any investigation into the former president’s financial dealings — professing ignorance about the inquiry Democrats opened when they controlled the House — and was instead focusing 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 senior Republican on the oversight panel during the last Congress, while Democrats waged a lengthy legal fight over obtaining 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.”

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He confirmed the end to the inquiry into Trump after Democrats wrote to Comer raising concerns about the fact that Mazars, the former president’s longtime accounting firm that cut ties with him last year, had stopped turning over documents related to his financial dealings. The top Democrat on the panel suggested that Comer had worked with Trump’s lawyers to effectively kill the investigation, an accusation the chairman denied.

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

Comer on Monday denied knowledge of any attempt to coordinate with Trump’s lawyers to block the investigation, but he made it clear he did not plan to keep it going. His committee has issued no subpoenas concerning Trump’s finances.

Democrats fought in court for years to get financial documents from Trump’s former accounting firm, and only last year — after entering into a court-ordered settlement — began receiving the documents and gaining new insights into how foreign governments sought influence using the Trump International Hotel. The company has been delivering the documents to the committee in batches.

In the letter, Raskin wrote that he had reviewed communications between Patrick Strawbridge, Trump’s counsel, and a lawyer for Mazars in which the Trump lawyer indicated he had been told that House Republicans would no longer insist on additional document production. On Jan. 19, Strawbridge wrote, “I do not know the status of Mazars 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 assertion had been made to him twice by the acting general counsel 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 lawyers for Mazars.

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-supervised settlement agreement. But Mazars said it had not received such a release nor was any filed with the court, which has retained jurisdiction over the matter.

Even so, Mazars informed Democratic staff members that, as a result of Strawbridge’s assertions, it would cease production after the delivery of a small tranche of documents that it had identified as responsive to the subpoena, the letter states.

Enforcement of a court-supervised settlement agreement made with one 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 into 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 in both parties.

The documents from Mazars have thus far provided new evidence about how foreign governments sought to influence the Trump administration. In November, for instance, documents the committee received from Mazars detailed how officials from six nations spent more than $750,000 at Trump’s hotel in Washington when they were seeking to influence his administration, renting rooms for more than $10,000 per night.

“In the face of mounting evidence that foreign governments sought to influence the Trump administration by playing to President Trump’s financial interests, you and President Trump’s representatives appear to have acted in coordination to bury evidence of such misconduct,” Raskin wrote to Comer.

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

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

He has focused in particular 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, and that is the Biden family money trail from China.”

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

When Congress was in Democratic hands, the House Oversight Committee waged a yearslong 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 financial statements it had prepared.

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