Trump Organization tax records among DC, Maryland subpoena requests

Subpoenas served on the Trump Organization and a dozen related business entities by the attorneys general of...

Posted: Dec 6, 2018 11:33 AM
Updated: Dec 6, 2018 11:33 AM

Subpoenas served on the Trump Organization and a dozen related business entities by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland on Wednesday include demands for tax documents -- raising the possibility that President Donald Trump's corporate returns could eventually be made public.

While the subpoenas don't ask for the President's personal tax returns, tax documents related to his businesses could begin to fill out a picture of the President's own finances by providing information about his main income sources.

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Trump has not released his personal tax returns, which was a standard practice among past presidents and candidates until Trump.

The office of District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine said Wednesday that it "can confirm that all of the Trump Organization entities have been served."

Additionally, subpoenas are being served to the state of Maine, the attorney general's office said. The subpoena issued to the state of Maine's Department of Administrative and Financial Services asks for information regarding any payments from the state made to Trump's hotel or BLT Prime restaurant after the 2016 election, according to court documents.

The attorneys general moved ahead with subpoenas on Wednesday after a federal judge on Monday set in motion the schedule for them to begin collecting evidence in their lawsuit challenging Trump's ongoing business interests.

The lawsuit by DC and Maryland claims Trump is in violation of the Constitution's ban on emoluments -- payments from foreign or domestic government entities to the President -- because of his continued interest in the Trump International Hotel.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that lobbyists representing the Saudi government paid for at least 500 stays at the Trump International in three months starting in December 2016, right after Trump's election.

DC and Maryland have said the Trump International Hotel's operations put other nearby hotels and entertainment properties at a competitive disadvantage and that the Trump hotel got special tax concessions. The hotel won its lease on federally owned property in 2013, well before Trump's election.

The Justice Department has signaled it may challenge the evidence-gathering process.

The case is proceeding just as the Trump Organization prepares for a flurry of investigations from House Democrats once they take control of Congress in January.

The plaintiffs say they also plan to subpoena 18 entities that compete with the Trump Hotel.

The business entities subpoenaed on Wednesday include the trust that currently holds the President's business assets, the Trump International Hotel and the Trump Organization itself.

The attorneys general are not directly targeting the President in their discovery process, according to Racine's office.

The Trump Organization

Some of the subpoenas to the dozen business entities that are part of the Trump Organization not only ask for tax records but also company organizational charts; profit, loss and revenue statements; budget plans and "the anticipated and actual impact of the 2016 Presidential election on finances and projections," according to court documents.

These subpoenas make clear the plaintiffs are looking for information that shows domestic and foreign governments have paid money to the hotel as well as to restaurant BLT Prime, the President's favored dining spot outside the White House.

They ask for "all documents showing any payments by any foreign or domestic government to the Trump International Hotel or BLT Prime" and "all documents concerning marketing or promotion of or by the Trump International Hotel ... to any Foreign or Domestic Government."

Competitive Disadvantage

The attorneys general are also planning to send subpoenas to 18 private businesses, both hotels and restaurants in the DC and Maryland area, that directly compete with the Trump International Hotel and BLT Prime, according to Raquel Coombs, spokeswoman in the Maryland Attorney General's office.

In November, a DC judge dismissed a challenge from a Washington wine bar challenging Trump's involvement in the Trump International Hotel. In that lawsuit, the proprietors of Cork Wine Bar said it suffered because lobbyists and other political-minded customers chose to host fundraisers, events and dinners at the Trump International Hotel rather than at its business. Judge Richard Leon of the DC District Court said then in his opinion that Cork couldn't claim a competitive disadvantage just because of a public figure's fame.

Federal Government

Five federal agencies are also subject to subpoena requests: the Departments of Defense, Commerce, Agriculture, Treasury and the General Services Administration, which manages the lease for the Trump International in the Old Post Office, a federal building.

The subpoenas to Defense, Commerce and Agriculture ask for documents "showing or referring to any payments" to the Trump International Hotel or BLT Prime. It also asks these agencies for documents showing payments to hotels, restaurants or event spaces in the DC area and documents regarding "policies, guidelines, factors, and other venues You considered" in choosing those other hotels, restaurants and event spaces in the DC area.

The Treasury Department subpoena asks for similar information as the other agencies, but it also requests information regarding a February 21, 2018, payment of $151,470 from the Trump Organization to the US Treasury. The Trump Organization claimed that money received from foreign governments was donated to the Treasury in that payment, but the company never provided substantial details or documentation about the donation.

The court has not yet determined if Trump as an individual will be able to be sued in the case. His personal attorney in the case has asked the court for a hearing on that aspect.

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