Democrats from the House and Senate have told a federal judge they’d like to begin pursuing President Donald Trump’s personal financial records and corporate records next month as part of a lawsuit over his business properties.
The request has not yet been approved by a judge. But if the timeline is approved, this case would add yet another layer to various pursuits by members of Congress of Trump’s financial history.
Democrats claim they did not have the opportunity to consider and approve Trump’s business proceeds from foreign governments when he became President. So they want to begin collecting evidence – both documents and depositions – from banks, from Trump Organization subsidiaries and from his trust account beginning in late June.
They’re specifically seeking information about Trump companies that accept certain benefits from foreign governments, such as through intellectual property and other regulatory approvals, and payments from the governments toward Trump licensing, real estate and hotel rooms, conferences and events.
The Democrats claim Trump has violated the Constitution by not allowing them to review his business interests, and noted that he’s flouted the practice of past presidents who’ve divested their holdings while in office and notified Congress of what they accept from foreign powers.
Trump has also refused to release his personal and business tax returns, prompting Democratic-led House committees to pursue them for other reasons by issuing subpoenas in recent weeks. Trump’s accountants set up a trust in 2017 to oversee his assets during the presidency, and while the trust separates Trump from his business empire, it is not a blind trust.
Democrats, in this lawsuit, say they’d like to learn “if he is receiving funds from the Trust, or if he is receiving funds from his business enterprises through other means.”
Congressional Democrats also said they may want to ask Trump limited questions and would seek his personal financial records, according to Tuesday’s court filing.
They say this would take a “marginal amount of the President’s time” and far less than the Supreme Court allowed previously in a lawsuit against Bill Clinton during his presidency.
They would also like to depose people from the Trump Organization and other corporations “in which the President has an ownership interest,” the filing said.
The Democrats’ current plan is to complete collecting the evidence by late September this year, before Trump’s presidential election is in full swing.
The Justice Department says the President’s time is limited and moving the lawsuit forward would encroach on his work. In court, they’re already indicated they’ll fight the evidence-gathering. They’re attempting to appeal a trial-level judge’s rulings approving Congress’ ability to bring the case and defining the Constitutional language broadly. An appeal, if allowed by the courts, would likely pause and delay the evidence-gathering.
A similar lawsuit about Trump’s business interests while he is President, which was brought by state attorneys general in DC and Maryland, currently is being considered by an appeals court.
“If the President succeeds in running out the clock, an entire presidential term will have gone by with the nation’s highest officeholder making countless foreign policy decisions while under a cloud of potentially divided loyalty and compromised judgment caused by his enrichment from foreign states,” lawyers for the Democrats wrote in the court filing.