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Trump has lost his first two attempts to fight 'all the subpoenas' in court

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump said last month that he plans to fight "all the subpoenas" issued by congressional Democrats attempting to conduct oversight of his administration and examine his personal finances.
  • He has lost two of those fights in the past three days.
  • The president may have more success in the court fights to come, including appeals in the cases decided this week. But the two losses are nonetheless a dramatic setback for the president's fight-them-all legal strategy.
President Donald Trump
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

President Donald Trump said last month that he plans to fight "all the subpoenas " issued by congressional Democrats attempting to conduct oversight of his administration and examine his personal finances.

He has lost two of those fights in the past three days.

On Monday, a federal judge in Washington endorsed the House Oversight Committee's authority to subpoena the president's accounting firm for financial records.

And on Wednesday, a federal judge in New York City said the banks for the president and his businesses, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, can turn over documents to the intelligence and financial services committees, after Trump sued to stop them.

The president may have more success in the court fights to come, including appeals in the cases decided this week. But the two losses are nonetheless a dramatic setback for the president's fight-them-all legal strategy.

"President Trump is already at war with one branch of government; he may not be able to sustain a fight against two of them," wrote Kurt Bardella, who was press secretary to Rep. Darrell Issa when the California Republican served as chairman of the oversight committee, in an essay for NBC News published on Wednesday.

The defeats could also fuel Democratic efforts that have yet to see their day in court, providing a net of rulings that could bolster lawmakers' confidence and deliver legal rationales for new lines of inquiry.

On that front, battle plans have already emerged.

In recent days, the White House has thwarted attempts by House Democrats to compel the testimony of Donald McGahn, the former White House counsel who provided much of the evidence for special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election. Democrats, who issued McGahn a subpoena, are now threatening to hold him in contempt.

The Trump administration is also fighting the House Ways and Means committee, which is seeking access to six years of Trump's tax returns in a fight that dates back to the 2016 campaign.

Trump has refused to make those returns public, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has rebuffed Democratic efforts to compel his agency to do so. But Mnuchin's decision is facing new scrutiny after The Washington Post reported Tuesday that a confidential draft memorandum circulated at the IRS contradicted much of his legal reasoning.

Mnuchin said Wednesday that he believes the memorandum was "addressing a different issue " and that he had not yet reviewed it. The ways and means committee's Democratic chairman, Rep. Richard Neal of Massachusetts, has said the matter could be litigated as soon as this week.

As the legal battles continue, the president's legislative priorities are likely to suffer. Appeals battles can last years — and, so far, neither Trump nor Democrats have signaled that they are likely to back down from a fight.

Meanwhile, Trump has said that while the investigations continue he will not make any bipartisan deals — including over infrastructure, once a signature policy priority.

"You can't investigate and legislate simultaneously — it just doesn't work that way," Trump wrote in a post on Twitter on Wednesday shortly after walking out of an infrastructure meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

"In the meantime, my Administration is achieving things that have never been done before, including unleashing perhaps the Greatest Economy in our Country's history," he wrote.