Maryland, DC seek president’s taxes in lawsuit over Trump hotel

Via @timjhogan

The attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., said Monday they will seek President Trump’s tax returns in a lawsuit over foreign payments to his D.C.-based hotel.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said he and his D.C. counterpart, Karl Racine, will seek Trump’s personal financial information — including his tax returns — in a lawsuit alleging the president has committed “unprecedented constitutional violations.”

Frosh and Racine filed a lawsuit against Trump on Monday, claiming his ownership of the Trump International Hotel in D.C. violates two Constitutional clauses barring elected officials from receiving personal gifts and payments. 

{mosads}Trump has refused to release his tax returns, a standard disclosure from every president since Richard Nixon, claiming he would do so once the Internal Revenue Services completes its audit of him.

Even so, IRS commissioner John Koskinen said Trump could release his taxes regardless of whether he’s under audit. 

If successful, the suit could reveal extensive information about Trump’s finances that could affect the investigations into the depth of Russian collusion with his campaign and associates.

The suit, filed in the U.S. district court for Maryland, alleges Trump has violated both the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses by maintaining a financial stake the D.C. hotel. The complaint cites multiple cases of foreign diplomats and business executives staying in or holding events at the Trump hotel to curry favor with the president.

Trump refused to divest from his business empire before taking office, instead claiming his stake in the Trump Organization would be managed by a blind trust. However, that trust is managed in part by his sons Donald Jr. and Eric, who said they brief the president on his company’s profits.

“President Trump’s continued ownership interest in a global business empire … violates the Constitution and calls into question the rule of law and the integrity of the country’s political system,” read the complaint. 

“Uncertainty about whether the President is acting in the best interests of the American people, or rather for his own ends or personal enrichment, inflicts lasting harm on our democracy.

Frosh and Racine, both Democrats, said they’re seeking a court judgment that Trump has violated the Constitution, and a legal remedy that keeps payments to the hotel out of Trump’s pocket.

“This case is about the right of hundreds of millions of Americans to an honest government,” Frosh said at a Monday press conference. “The president, above all other elected officials, must have only the interests of Americans at the heart of his decisions.”

Maryland and D.C.’s case is not the first to challenge Trump under the emoluments clause, but theirs features a unique jurisdictional issue that could help them achieve standing during a trial.

Both the state and district claim Trump’s presidency “tilts the competitive playing field toward his business,” and away from competing local hotels and restaurants.

Maryland also cites a potential loss in tax revenue from patrons who could skip over its new MGM National Harbor hotel and casino, just across the Potomac River from D.C.

Maryland casinos are forced under state law to give a cut of their gambling revenue to the state. The complaint says Maryland has received $75 million from the MGM casino in 2017, including $55 million toward state education.

The complaint also claims Trump’s hotel unfairly detracts from D.C. revenues from events that could have otherwise been hosted at locations the district either owns or shares profits with. 

Republican National Committee spokeswoman Lindsay Jancek called the lawsuit “absurd.”

“The actions of the attorneys general represent the kind of partisan grandstanding voters across the country have come to despise. The American people elected President Trump to lead this country, and it is time Democrats end their efforts to delegitimize his presidency.”

Racine insisted the case had nothing to do with Trump’s party, saying such complaints could apply to Oprah Winfrey or Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg should they run for president. Neither have announced plans to run in the 2020 election, or ever, but have been subjects of speculation.

Updated at 2:23 p.m.

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