Maryland and D.C. attorneys general plan to sue Trump over foreign payments, ask for tax returns

U.S. President Donald Trump (Photo by Aude Guerrucci-Pool/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The state of Maryland and the District of Columbia plan to sue President Trump on Monday, alleging that he has violated the Constitution by accepting foreign money through his business empire, according to a person familiar with the plans.

The Democratic attorneys general are of Maryland and D.C.

The suit, to be filed in federal court in Maryland, will allege that Trump has violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign governments without the consent of Congress, according to the person.

It will cite not just the president’s luxury hotel in Washington, which has been at the center of concerns about conflicts of interest, but his worldwide network of hotels, golf courses and other commercial properties, the person said.

Despite a pledge to isolate himself from the business, Trump held on to his assets and placed them in a trust in his name. That arrangement means that he will benefit from the success of the business, even if he doesn’t reap the rewards until after he leaves office.

The suit will argue that Maryland the District of Columbia have been harmed by Trump’s ongoing ownership of the business. They plan to cite convention centers and other properties in Maryland and the district that compete with the Trump hotel.

In addition, the suit will say that states have standing to sue because they entered a contract, the Constitution, that prohibits the president from receiving emoluments. The suit will say that not just hotel payments but tax breaks and permits count as emoluments.

The suit being filed Monday will ask the court for an injunction blocking Trump from accepting foreign money, the person said. It will also ask for access to Trump’s personal tax returns as part of the legal process known as discovery, the person said.

A similar lawsuit was filed in January, moments after Trump was inaugurated, by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog organization.

Since then, a nonprofit restaurant group, a New York hotel and restaurant owner, and a woman who books events at hotels in Washington have joined the suit as plaintiffs.

On Friday, the Justice Department asked a federal judge to dismiss the case.

CREW is outside counsel on the lawsuit the attorneys general plan to file.

The Trump Organization has promised to take steps to address some ethics concerns. It told lawmakers that it would “track and identify” revenues received by its hotels from foreign governments, which it would then donate to the U.S. Treasury.

But in documentation sent to lawmakers this year, the company said it would be “impractical” to track everyone. That means it the business will not try to identify people who haven’t specifically identified themselves as representing a foreign government.

Representative Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, blasted that plan.

He told the company in a letter last month that Trump should either divest his ownership or get permission from Congress to accept all sources of foreign money if it’s too difficult to identify those payments.