March 27, 2019 / 10:16 PM / 22 days ago

U.S. lawmakers squabble over demand for Trump financial records

FILE PHOTO: Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) speaks about recent revelations about President Donald Trump's involvement with Russia on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., U.S. May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A request by a leading Democrat for records of Donald Trump’s financial dealings before he became president set off a partisan squabble in the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday.

In a letter to the chairman and chief executive officer of Mazars USA LLP, an audit and accounting firm, Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, last week requested records related to personal financial statements the firm prepared for Trump in 2011-2013.

Republican leaders on Wednesday denounced Cummings’ move as an illegitimate effort to embarrass Trump.

In his letter, Cummings cited recent testimony before his committee by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that Trump changed the estimated value of his assets and debts on financial statements prepared by Mazars.

Cohen told the committee during his testimony that Trump at times inflated the value of his assets, such as when he was preparing a bid for the Buffalo Bills National Football League team, and at times deflated them, such as when he wanted to reduce his real estate taxes.

But two Republican leaders on the committee, Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows, who had publicly defended Trump and grilled Cohen during his testimony, on Wednesday questioned the legitimacy of Cummings’ request.

They said he was seeking information about Trump’s finances going back 10 years, well before Trump ran for office, adding that it “does not appear to have a valid legislative purpose and instead seems to seek information to embarrass a private individual.”

The Republicans also complained that Cummings did not consult with them before sending his letter to the accounting firm.

A spokesman said the White House had no comment. Mazars did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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