What to know about Deutsche Bank's Trump-related tax returns

House Democrats' efforts to obtain President Trump's tax returns took a new turn this week, when Deutsche Bank said in a court filing that it has tax returns relevant to subpoenas for financial records of Trump, his children and his businesses.

It's not clear from the court document exactly what tax returns Deutsche Bank has. But the bank's assertion - made as part of a court case over House Democrats' subpoenas for financial records - could be good news for Democrats with an interest in seeing Trump's returns before the 2020 presidential election.

Democrats have been interested in viewing Trump tax returns since the president broke with decades of precedent during the 2016 election and refused to voluntarily make his taxes public. Trump has said he won't release his returns while under audit, but the IRS has said that audits don't prevent people from releasing their own tax information.

Here's what you need to know about Deutsche Bank's disclosure that it has Trump-related tax returns. 


What did Deutsche Bank say it has?

Deutsche Bank said in a letter to a federal appeals court in New York that it has tax returns responsive to Democrats' subpoenas, either as drafts or as filed forms, but the public version of the letter redacted the name or names of the individuals or businesses whose returns the bank possesses.

The House Financial Services and Intelligence committees issued subpoenas to the bank in April for financial records of Trump, his three oldest children and some of his business entities.

The bank also said that it has tax returns of people who aren't named in the subpoenas but "may constitute 'immediate family' within the definition provided in the Subpoenas." 

The bank filed an unredacted letter to the court under seal.


Why are Democrats interested in Deutsche Bank's Trump-related financial documents?

Deutsche Bank has provided many loans to Trump's businesses over the years, even at times when other banks would not work with the president, which has caused the bank's records and behavior to be of interest to Democrats conducting oversight.

The House's lawyers said in court papers earlier this year that the Financial Services Committee is interested in Deutsche Bank's Trump-related financial records as part of its investigation into the safety of bank lending practices, banks' compliance with anti-money laundering policies and the use of anonymous shell companies.

The House Intelligence Committee is interested in the financial records from the bank as part of its examination of whether Trump's financial ties to Russia were part of Moscow's efforts to ensnare high-profile figures in corrupt activity or gain leverage over them, according to court papers.

In addition to asking for tax returns, the committees also asked for a host of other information about the finances of the Trump family and businesses from Deutsche Bank in their subpoenas, including account applications, account statements and documents related to monitoring for potential suspicious activity.


Why did Deutsche Bank reveal they have Trump-related tax returns?

Deutsche Bank's letter stating that it has some tax returns relevant to Democrats' probe came after federal appeals court judges directed the bank and Capital One to tell them whether they possessed such documents.

Shortly after House Democrats issued their subpoenas to the banks, Trump and the other individuals and businesses whose records are being sought filed a lawsuit against the banks in order to prevent them from providing the requested documents. 

A federal district judge in New York ruled against issuing a preliminary injunction in the case, but Trump has appealed that ruling and the subpoenas won't be executed while the appeal is being considered. 

A three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit heard oral arguments on the appeal last week, during which time the judges asked Deutsche Bank and Capital One if they had any tax returns responsive to the subpoenas. The banks refused to answer the question at the time, citing contractual obligations. The judges then issued an order instructing the banks to tell the court whether they have tax returns of people and entities referred to in the subpoenas.

Capital One said on Tuesday that it doesn't have tax returns relevant to its subpoena from House Democrats.

The appeals court judges haven't made a ruling yet about whether the two banks can comply with parts or all of House Democrats' subpoenas.


What does this mean for Democrats' efforts to get Trump's tax returns?

The disclosure by Deutsche Bank that it has tax returns relevant to the subpoenas means that House Democrats could get their hands on Trump-related tax information from the bank before they get the president's tax returns from the IRS, according to some observers that are following the legal battles.

Separately from the Financial Services and Intelligence committees' subpoenas, the House Ways and Means Committee is trying to obtain six years of Trump's personal and business tax returns from the Treasury Department and IRS. 

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) is seeking Trump's tax returns under a provision of the tax code that states that the Treasury secretary "shall furnish" tax returns requested by the chairs of Congress's tax committees. But Treasury and the IRS have rejected Neal's request under the tax code and subsequent subpoenas for Trump's returns, leading the Ways and Means Committee to file a lawsuit in July to get a judge to order the administration to provide the documents.

The Ways and Means Committee's lawsuit is not as far along as the case over the records from Deutsche Bank. While Trump's lawsuit against Deutsche Bank and Capital One is currently being heard at the appeals court level, the Ways and Means Committee's case is at the district court level. On Thursday, the judge in that case rejected a request from the Ways and Means Committee to speed up their lawsuit.

But it's not a foregone conclusion that Democrats will quickly get the tax returns that they are seeking from Deutsche Bank. 

A lawyer for the House argued in a letter to the appeals court this week that the federal tax code doesn't prohibit Deutsche Bank from providing tax returns to Congress under subpoenas if those returns were provided to the bank directly by the relevant taxpayers. 

However, a lawyer for Trump argued in a letter to the court on Thursday that the Financial Services and Intelligence committees have no jurisdiction to request tax returns. The Trump lawyer argued that the subpoenas raise questions that shouldn't be mooted by a denial of Trump's request for a preliminary injunction.

Deutsche Bank may also have different tax documents than what the Ways and Means Committee is seeking. 

The New York Times reported that Deutsche Bank has portions of Trump's personal and business tax returns for multiple years, citing current and former bank officials. The Ways and Means Committee is seeking IRS administrative files concerning Trump's returns, in addition to the returns themselves.