This Week in Conflicts: Trump Files a Lawsuit, New Emolument Concerns Unearthed

 Michael Vadon)

This week, President Donald Trump and his company filed a lawsuit to stop the release of financial documents, news about foreign governments renting space in Trump World Tower raise more emolument concerns and details emerge about taxpayers footing the bill for a night of drinking at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump Sues to Block Release of Finance Docs

President Trump filed a lawsuit to stop the release of personal financial documents requested from Deutsche Bank and Capital One by Democratic lawmakers.

As NPR reports, “the president, his three oldest children and his business, The Trump Organization, say the investigations by the House intelligence and Financial Services committees are overbroad and serve no purpose beyond harassment.”

The lawsuit says the subpoenas sent to the banks are an overreach and politically motivated.

Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School, told NPR, President Trump’s lawsuit may slow down the investigations but is unlikely to prevent the information from being released.

“Deutsche Bank was one of the few, if only, major banks to lend to Trump after his casino bankruptcies in the early 1990s,” according to NPR. 

President Donald Trump and Attorney General William Barr. (Image Credit: The United States Department of Justice)

Barr Skips House, Visits Senate

Attorney General William Barr skipped his hearing with House Democrats a day before testifying in the Senate. Now, some Democrats are considering holding him in contempt and accusing him of lying.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is one of those Democrats. She said, “what is deadly serious about it is the attorney general of the United States of America is not telling the truth to the Congress of the United States. That’s a crime.”

“Pelosi’s comments appeared to reference answers Barr gave during House testimony last month,” CNBC reports. “Lawmakers asked him about reported frustrations Mueller’s team had with a summary the attorney general wrote about the special counsel’s report. Barr said he was not aware of concerns the Mueller team had about his summary. But news reports revealed this week that Mueller had written a letter to Barr expressing concerns about how the attorney general depicted the ‘substance’ of the report — before the attorney general testified.”

That letter was released by the Department of Justice this week. As the New York Times reports, “the letter adds to the growing evidence of a rift between them and is another sign of the anger among the special counsel’s investigators about Mr. Barr’s characterization of their findings, which allowed Mr. Trump to wrongly claim he had been vindicated.”

Emolument Concerns

Reuters is reporting, that the U.S. State Department “allowed at least seven foreign governments to rent luxury condominiums in New York’s Trump World Tower in 2017 without approval from Congress.”

The rentals could violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution which bans officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments without congressional consent.

According to Reuters, “the governments of Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Thailand and the European Union got the green light to rent a combined eight units in Trump World Tower and followed through with leases, according to other documents viewed by Reuters and people familiar with the leases. Five of those governments – Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Thailand and the European Union – had also sought to rent units there in 2015 and 2016, State Department records showed.”

On Tuesday, President Trump’s request to dismiss one of the lawsuits against him alleging he violated the emoluments clause was denied by a federal judge.

Taxpayers Cover Costs at Mar-A-Lago

In a new story for their Trump, Inc. series, ProPublica is reporting that taxpayers covered a liquor bill for President Trump staffers drinking at his Mar-a-Lago club.

It happened in April 2017 during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping. After a dinner of “Dover sole and New York strip steak,” ProPublica reports there was a group meeting at the library bar of the Mar-a-Lago club.

“The group asked the bartender to leave the room so it ‘could speak confidentially,’ according to an email written by Mar-a-Lago’s catering director, Brooke Watson,” ProPublica reports. “The Secret Service guarded the door, according to the email. The bartender wasn’t allowed to return. And members of the group began pouring themselves drinks. No one paid. Six days later, on April 13, Mar-a-Lago created a bill for those drinks, tallying $838 worth of alcohol plus a 20% service charge.”

According to ProPublica, “the bill was sent to the State Department, which objected to covering it. It was then forwarded to the White House, which paid the tab.”

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking.

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.

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