A federal judge ordered
President Trump’s business to preserve records for a lawsuit that alleges his company violated anticorruption clauses in the Constitution.
A federal judge on Tuesday ordered President Trump’s business to preserve records related to a lawsuit brought by the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia that allege his private company has violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution.
With the ruling, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh are now permitted to serve subpoenas requiring the Trump Organization to preserve documents if the court allows the two sides to seek evidence from each other.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Maryland is a small advancement in one of the most high-profile attempts to get a court to consider a case on the “emoluments” clauses of the Constitution, which bar the president from accepting gifts or payments from foreign or state governments.
“This ruling is an important first step in our litigation against President Trump for unlawfully receiving emoluments from foreign and domestic governments,” Racine said in a statement.
No court has considered an emoluments case previously, and some legal experts doubt any judge will allow such cases to proceed.
Because Trump continues to benefit financially from his hotel, resort and golf properties — in some cases from clients affiliated with foreign governments — Frosh and Racine alleged in their June complaint that Trump had committed “unprecedented constitutional violations.”
State spending that benefits the president may be considered a violation of the domestic emolument clause, which says the president “shall not receive” any emolument, other than fixed compensation, from “the United States, or any of them.”
That provision brings into question spending by state officials at Trump properties, which may be more likely as the properties host an increasing number of Republican congressional fundraisers and campaign events.
For instance, on Tuesday night at Trump International Hotel in Washington, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was spotted attending an anniversary party celebrating Trump’s 2016 campaign victory.
Paxton’s office did not immediately respond to a question about whether state money was spent at the hotel. Trump campaign officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Justice Department attorneys asked Messitte to dismiss the case in September, and in a filing last month, agency attorneys argued that no evidence should be sought “through subpoenas or other mechanisms” in the meantime.
Justice Department officials declined to comment. The Trump Organization, now run by the president’s adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, has said it plans to donate profits from foreign governments at the Trump hotel in Washington at year’s end.
Racine and Frosh’s case is one of a handful of suits brought by states, watchdog groups or businesses over emoluments.