Maxine Waters will soon wield gavel in feud with White House

The public feud between Rep. Maxine Waters and President Trump is poised to reach new heights when the California Democrat is granted subpoena power as head of a powerful congressional committee overseeing the financial sector.

Waters, a fierce critic of both the president and the banking industry, is in line to wield the gavel on the House Financial Services Committee, giving her the authority to launch investigations into Trump’s bank transactions.

{mosads}Industry representatives are bracing for heated hearings and rebukes from Waters, who has proposed breaking up big banks and major penalties for scandal-ridden Wells Fargo. They’re also aware that politics will infuse much of the committee’s agenda.

“The ball’s going to be in her court,” said Richard Hunt, president and CEO of the Consumer Bankers Association. “We’re not going to undermine the reputational risk in front of us.”

Waters’s dueling role as the Democratic lead on financial policy and one of Trump’s most effective foils could dovetail as she takes control of the committee in January.

“The first thing we have to understand in this committee is that we have a lot of issues and a lot of concerns, and I’m not just focused on the president,” Waters said Wednesday on Bloomberg TV. “That’s just one piece of the business we have to do.”

Waters said she’s prioritizing efforts to expand affordable housing, undo the Trump administration’s weakening of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, snuff out predatory financial products and bolster federal shelter support for struggling Americans.

But she is also expected to launch probes into Trump’s personal finances to look for possible connections with Russian nationals. As chairman, she’d be legally authorized to subpoena documents from the Treasury Department and Deutsche Bank that could illuminate those ties.

Deutsche Bank is one of the few financial firms that conducts business with Trump and has come under intense scrutiny from U.S. and European regulators for money laundering. The German bank was fined $630 million last year by the Department of Justice for allegedly laundering money coming out of Russia.

Waters on Wednesday brushed off questions about whether she’d issue subpoenas for Trump’s financial records and related documents, saying, “We will deal with that when we come to it.”

Waters, 80, has steadily accumulated power since joining the House in 1991. She served as chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus from 1997 to 1999 and became the top Democrat on the Financial Services panel in 2012, replacing former Rep. Barney Frank (Mass.).

While she was already well known to Washington policy watchers, Waters last year landed on the national stage during a Financial Services Committee hearing with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The liberal firebrand tore into Mnuchin for what she considered inadequate answers to her questions, frequently halting his explanations to salvage her allotted time to grill him.

The showdown went viral, with “reclaiming my time” becoming a rallying cry among Trump’s critics, and the newly dubbed “Auntie Maxine” emerged as a leading figure of the resistance. Trump responded with his description of Waters, calling her a “low IQ” person, among other personal insults, and saying that her chairmanship of the Financial Services panel would lead to economic ruin.

Waters has since demanded Trump’s impeachment and called for the public confrontation of Cabinet officials while blasting Republicans and the administration for rolling back part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law.

Despite all that, industry lobbyists are hopeful that Waters will help clear small but significant bills after decades of cutting deals across the aisle.

Dan Berger, president and CEO of the National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions, said he expects the panel to focus on issues that cut across partisan lines.

“There’s going to be a strong focus on financial inclusion, education and data security,” Berger said. “We don’t see necessarily risks for us. We see risks for the big banks and Wall Street banks and predatory lenders.”

Wells Fargo is also likely to land in Waters’s crosshairs as the bank struggles to reboot its reputation after several sales scandals resulting in more than $1 billion in federal fines since 2016. Waters said Wednesday that the panel will continue to probe Wells and offered to meet with the bank’s chairman and CEO, Timothy Sloan.

Wells Fargo said in a statement that it “remains committed to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Congresswoman Waters.”

While stricter bank rules proposed by Waters would likely die in the GOP-controlled Senate, analysts say she could still bog down further rollbacks led by Trump-appointed regulators with hearings and document requests.

“The regulators are thinly staffed near the top, so having to respond to antagonistic lawmakers will slow down their deregulatory work,” wrote Capital Alpha Partners analyst Ian Katz in a Wednesday research note. “The requests won’t necessarily change the content of the proposals, but they certainly delay them.”

Tags Donald Trump Maxine Waters Steven Mnuchin

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