Trump Closer to Having to Turn Over Business Records After Court Ruling

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump faces the prospect of turning over business records to Maryland and District of Columbia lawyers after a federal judge rejected his request to halt a lawsuit claiming he’s using his office to enrich himself in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

  • Maryland and Washington attorneys general want to know how much money Trump’s hotel in Washington receives from foreign and domestic governments, how it solicits business, and how profit flows to the president’s trust.

Key Takeaways

  • The lawsuit, one of at least three alleging Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, is the first to advance to a stage requiring Trump to surrender records. And with state and federal prosecutors in New York already attempting to root around his business, Friday’s ruling could represent the start of a years-long battle to get inside the constellation of entities known as the Trump Organization.
  • Trump has refused to allow the public to gain access to records about his business activities, particularly the Washington hotel. It’s popular with Republicans and those seeking to curry favor with Trump and has attracted business from representatives of foreign governments such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
  • “We agree with the court that the president’s motion was nothing more than an attempt to delay the ultimate resolution of our lawsuit,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a statement. The judge said “the president’s proposed definition of the term emolument is ‘exceedingly strained’ and would prohibit only ‘what is tantamount to a bribe,”’ Frosh added.
  • Trump may still seek to appeal the decision. Trump Organization and White House spokespersons didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.


  • Trump is accused of violating the emoluments clauses, which generally prohibit a president from receiving gifts from foreign and domestic governments without Congress’s permission, by attracting government spending at his luxury hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • Other suits have been brought by Democrats in Congress (that case is pending) and a good-government group. That one was dismissed by a lower-court judge and is on appeal.
  • The ruling was issued by U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte, who was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton. He rested part of his ruling on the 1997 decision in the Clinton v. Paula Jones case.
  • Judge rejects Trump’s claim that he’s too busy to defend the case, pointing to one of the president’s tweets. Judge: “It bears noting that the president himself appears to have had little reluctance to purse personal litigation despite the supposed distractions it imposes upon his office.”

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