Maryland and D.C. Seek Trump’s Trust, Business Tax Returns
(Bloomberg) -- Maryland and Washington D.C. officials unleashed a burst of subpoenas seeking financial records that would penetrate Donald Trump’s closely guarded trust and business and reveal whether the president is profiting off foreign governments.
Among the investigative demands issued Tuesday to more than 30 business entities, competitors and government agencies is a request for state and federal tax returns of Trump’s personal trust and the Trump Organization.
The officials are seeking information about spending by foreign and domestic governments at Trump’s D.C. hotel as part of a lawsuit accusing the president of enriching himself through the White House.
Unless the specific requests are blocked by a court, the records could allow attorneys general in Maryland and the District of Columbia to pierce a layer of secrecy that Trump and his company have zealously guarded -- namely, which governments the company is pitching for business and how much revenue Trump has generated from overseas officials while in public office.
The subpoenas, many of which the attorneys general publicly disclosed, come a day after a federal judge approved a schedule for the two sides to exchange documents as part of the attorneys general’s lawsuit. The suits claim Trump’s ownership of the luxury hotel violates the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clauses because visiting government officials may be spending money there to curry favor with the president.
Along with the Trump Organization, the attorneys general seek documents from the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, Trump International Hotels Management LLC and related entities. The officials also want records from the hotel’s competitors and the U.S. departments of Defense, Commerce and the Treasury, as well as the state of Maine.
The case is among a number of legal and political challenges to Trump’s ownership of a sprawling empire, spurring criticism from Democrats and some Republicans that Trump is seeking to profit off the presidency.
In winning the court’s approval to delve into Trump’s records, the D.C. and Maryland attorneys general are now entering a realm of the president’s life he once declared off limits to those probing him.
But that hasn’t stopped investigators. Last week, Special Counsel Robert Mueller won a guilty plea from Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, who told a judge that the then-candidate secretly sought to develop a Moscow Trump Tower until well after the 2016 Iowa primary.
And last month New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood won a court ruling allowing the state to move forward with a lawsuit accusing the president and his three oldest children of engaging in a decade-long pattern of self-dealing and using his nonprofit’s funds for political purposes. Trump and his children have denied the allegations.
The attorneys general lawsuit is taking a different tack, searching for proof that Trump’s luxury hotel -- just blocks from the White House -- is enriching him in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The lawsuit names just Trump as a defendant. But included among the many targets of the broad subpoenas are documents related to the flow of money from the hotel to the president’s pocket, the extent of foreign and domestic government business at his hotel, and steps taken to attract their dollars.
In addition to the tax returns, the attorneys general are seeking organizational charts, communications between the U.S. government and Trump companies, a list of hotel guests and restaurant customers employed by foreign or domestic governments, and insight into how the company calculated a $151,470 payment to the U.S. Treasury, ostensibly from foreign sources.
“On Feb. 22, 2018, the Trump Organization voluntarily donated to the U.S. Treasury all profits identified as being from foreign government patronage at our hotels and similar businesses,” company spokeswoman Amanda Miller said. “We intend to make a similar contribution in 2019.”
The attorneys general also want records about “the anticipated and actual impact of the 2016 presidential election” on the hotel’s finances, according to the subpoenas.
The attorneys general will review competing hotels, restaurants and event spaces in Maryland and the District for evidence they’re losing customers to the president.
Some foreign governments have been open about spending money at Trump’s Pennsylvania Avenue hotel. The Philippines hosted an event at the hotel in June to mark the 120th anniversary of its independence. Lobbyists representing Saudi Arabia spent some $270,000 at the hotel last year as part of an effort to derail terrorism legislation, according to filings with the U.S. Justice Department.
Senator Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has requested information from the embassies of Kuwait, Bahrain and Azerbaijan regarding events they’ve held at Trump’s hotel since his 2016 election.
Justice Department lawyers last week told U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte that they’ll seek permission from an an appeals court in Richmond, Virginia, to appeal and to freeze the evidence-gathering process while that review plays out.
The case is District of Columbia v. Trump, 17-cv-1596, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).
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