The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia have issued requests for summons for financial documents and other documents from no less than 13 private entities of President Trump on Tuesday as part of an ongoing lawsuit claiming that his activity violates the prohibition of the Constitution of gifts or payments from foreign governments.
Quotations in court look for details on some of Trump's most relevant secrets: what foreign governments have paid the Trump Organization money? How much? For what?
All documents – including marketing material for embassies, credit card receipts and restaurant reservations registers – relate to Trump's DC hotel, which is at the heart of the case due to events that foreign governments held there and the federal leasing that allows the business to be managed.
The case is based on the provisions on unused salaries in the Constitution, which prevent presidents from taking improper payments from foreign governments or individual states. Trump claimed that he is not in violation, stating that the Constitution intended to prohibit bribes, not normal commercial transactions. The Trump organization also donates profits from foreign governments to the US Treasury.
The Department of Justice, which is defending Trump in the case, declined to comment.
Brian E. Frosh (D) of Maryland and Karl A. Racine (D) of the district are looking for documents relating to the company of the president, including the trust that holds his personal assets. They are also trying to view documents from a slew of Washington hotels and restaurants in competition. Their goal is to demonstrate that Trump's property is unfairly misappropriating business to competitors, the offices of the two attorneys general announced on Tuesday.
There are also a number of federal agencies that may have some information about Trump's hotel, which operates in the Old Post Office, a federal property, on Pennsylvania Avenue downtown.
At the top of the list is the general administration of services, which leases the property to the Trump company. In the agency's mandate, general prosecutors ask for documents relating to the hotel's lease as well as financial records.
Other agencies that receive quotes are the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense and the Department of Agriculture, which reportedly spent money at the hotel, and the Treasury Department, to whom the Trump Organization has donated profits from foreign governments at the beginning of this year.
Specifically, the attorney general asks for the credit card and billing receipts for any expenses from the federal agencies of the hotel and the hotel steakhouse, BLT Prime.
The state of Maine also receives a subpoena due to a visit by Governor Paul LePage (R) made at the hotel in early 2017.
Agencies and entities have until January 3 to respond to quotes.
Frosh said in an interview that he expects the quotes to provide more detailed information on the payments that the president's activities have received from foreign governments, such as India, China and Saudi Arabia.
"This is the information we believe will prove our case," Frosh said Tuesday after the quotes were issued. "There is no doubt that Donald J. Trump received emails prohibited by the Constitution."
But Frosh said he expects the Justice Department to resist prosecuting to try to prevent the attorneys general from obtaining information or "keeping him out of the public eye". They will do everything possible to avoid allowing us to obtain this information. "
The Trump organization reiterated the contributions it makes to the Treasury.
"On February 22, 2018, the Trump Organization voluntarily donated to the US Treasury all profits identified as coming from the patronage of the foreign government at our hotels and similar businesses, we intend to make a similar contribution in 2019," reads the note.
Since Trump won the 2016 election, his Washington hotel has hosted events organized by the embassies of Kuwait, Bahrain and the Philippines – all US allies. The Saudi government has spent at least $ 270,000 to book hotel rooms and banquet halls at the D.C. hotel, according to foreign lobby registries.
Neither the Trump Organization nor Trump White House provided comprehensive accounting for which foreign governments have paid money to the president's activities – and, by extension, to the president, who still owns them. Nor have they said what these countries have paid, which could concern fears of overpayment of services to favor Trump's favor.
Now, after almost two years of litigation, the general prosecutors have submitted formal requests for these data. Their argument: the constitutional emoluments clause was designed to prevent the public from being left to wonder whether the president had invisible business relations with foreign powers.
As part of their case, Racine and Frosh must demonstrate that similar facilities at the Trump hotel, such as the convention center, have lost business due to the competition from the Trump hotel.
The documents sued may lead to depositions with the principal officials of the Trump Organization.
While the plaintiffs are looking for tax documents related to the president's activities, they have not requested the president's personal income statements.
It is not clear how much of the information, even if entered in the court register, can be made public. Many of the documents requested by the plaintiffs are held by third-party hotel operators. Trump's lawyers have also reported that they intend to try to block the quotes by continuing to fight in court.
Lawyers in the Justice Department have been trying in vain to postpone the case and prevent or at least postpone the discovery, a process in which lawyers can request documents and interviews in the case. The department has again requested to remain on Friday, in hopes that the US Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit will intervene.
US District Judge Peter J. Messitte restricted the discovery to the district president's hotel information.
The president, say his lawyers, should not be burdened by negotiations on documents and documents if the complaint against him could eventually be rejected.
"The president, in turn, will be attracted to the inevitable disputes that will arise as the discovery progresses," wrote Trump's lawyer, William S. Consovoy. "The president will suffer the same burdens from which absolute immunity is supposed to protect him".
A second case of emoluments, brought by 198 Congressional Democrats, could open the president's company to the discovery beyond the D.C. hotel. A Washington district judge has so far allowed that case to proceed.
Trump resigned from his business when he joined the White House, but he still owns it and can benefit from it. His sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump now run the company.
This is the second civil case in which Trump's work is now the subject of discovery, after Trump agreed to produce parts of his calendar from 2007 and 2008 in a defamation lawsuit brought by the former competitor " Apprentice "Summer Zervos.