Their demands for a vast array of documents, including tax records related to the president's business, are certain to run headlong into a legal challenge by the administration. The Justice Department is expected to contest rulings by a federal judge ...
The Trump International Hotel in Washington is blocks away from the White House.CreditCreditBrian Snyder/Reuters
Dec. 4, 2018
WASHINGTON — The State of Maryland and the District of Columbia began issuing subpoenas on Tuesday for records related to President Trump’s hotel in Washington, seeking evidence of conflicts of interest that violate the Constitution’s anti-corruption provision.
Their demands for a vast array of documents, including tax records related to the president’s business, are certain to run headlong into a legal challenge by the administration. The Justice Department is expected to contest rulings by a federal judge who allowed the litigation to go forward, and the case appears bound for the Supreme Court.
The governments of Maryland and the District of Columbia are claiming that Mr. Trump is violating the emoluments clauses of the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign leaders or state officials who patronize the Trump International Hotel, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue just blocks from the White House. They are seeking documents from about a dozen entities connected to Mr. Trump’s business, including the trust in which he placed assets when he became president, as well as from numerous other entities.
But before any documents are produced, the Justice Department is expected to ask a federal appeals court and, if necessary, the Supreme Court, to intervene in the case. Justice Department lawyers contend that Judge Peter J. Messitte of United States District Court in Greenbelt, Md., has wrongly interpreted the meaning of the emoluments clauses, construing the bans against corruption far too broadly.
Brian E. Frosh, Maryland’s attorney general, said he expected the Justice Department to request an emergency review of Judge Messitte’s decisions within days. “They have done everything they can do to avoid getting to this point, and I believe they will continue to do everything they can to avoid producing these documents,” he said.
The Justice Department declined to comment.
Mr. Frosh said the plaintiffs were seeking records from the president’s trust because “ultimately we have to prove a connection between a payment to the Trump hotel and a payment to Donald Trump.”
Besides Mr. Trump’s own businesses, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said, the subpoenas cover several federal agencies and the State of Maine, whose officials have patronized the hotel; the Treasury Department, because Mr. Trump pledged to turn over his profits from foreign governments to the federal government; the General Services Administration, because it leased the property to Mr. Trump’s company; and 18 hotels, convention centers or other enterprises that compete with Mr. Trump’s property for business.
Mr. Trump’s sons Eric and Donald Jr. have run his business since he was elected president. But the plaintiffs are trying to show that foreign, state and federal officials gravitate to the hotel in an attempt to win the president’s favor.
The embassies of Kuwait, Bahrain and the Philippines have held events there. Moreover, “a large Malaysian government delegation has used the hotel, and Saudi Arabia has spent at least $270,000 there through its agents,” said Norman L. Eisen, the chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a co-counsel for the plaintiffs.
“The president’s violations of the emoluments clause are blatant and ongoing,” he said.
A version of this article appears in print on , on Page A24 of the New York edition with the headline: Challenging a Trump Hotel With a Flurry of Subpoenas. Order Reprints | Today’s Paper | Subscribe
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