Twenty-three Trump businesses including his Mar-a-Lago Club must retain records after they receive subpoenas from the attorneys general in Maryland and the District of Columbia as part of a lawsuit accusing the president of profiting from his office.
U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte on Tuesday issued a two-paragraph order granting the Democratic officials’ request to serve so-called preservation subpoenas, which require the businesses to retain documents but not to immediately produce them.
Attorneys General Karl Racine in Washington and Brian Frosh in Maryland claim in a lawsuit that the president’s continued ownership of his business empire allows him to make money from foreign and domestic governments. Attorneys for President Donald Trump have asked the judge to toss the case over the Constitution’s two emoluments clauses, saying Maryland and the District haven’t been harmed and the clauses don’t cover the presidents’ business activities unrelated to government service. Oral argument is set for Jan. 25.
“The ruling allows us to serve subpoenas to preserve evidence that will be invaluable if the court allows our case to proceed to the discovery phase,” Racine said in a statement. “This ruling is an important first step in our litigation against President Trump for unlawfully receiving emoluments from foreign and domestic governments.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam declined to comment on Messitte’s order. Government lawyers responded to the attorneys general request in an October court filing, saying they shouldn’t be required to turn over documents until the dismissal motion is decided.
Among the businesses targeted are Trump Old Post Office LLC, which operates the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The attorneys general want all documents starting Nov. 8 relating to direct or indirect payments made by any foreign or domestic government to be preserved. The businesses haven’t been sued.
Amanda Miller, a spokeswoman for the Trump Organization, didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
Trump lawyers have also asked a federal judge in New York to dismiss a lawsuit filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, arising from his alleged violation of the constitutional emoluments provision. The court hasn’t ruled in that case.
“It’s a good outcome in what is likely considered the first step in a long process,” Raquel Coombs, a spokeswoman for Frosh, said of the decision.
The case is District of Columbia v. Trump, 17-cv-1596, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).By