Democrats Say They Have New Information About Trump’s Financial Misdeeds

June 9, 2023 by Tom Ramstack
Democrats Say They Have New Information About Trump’s Financial Misdeeds
Outside the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC in 2019. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — More legal trouble is brewing for former President Donald Trump even after a second criminal indictment on Thursday.

He still faces the possibility of a legal claim related to a hotel his company ran in Washington, D.C., after new evidence revealed he received “emoluments” from foreign governments.

Emoluments, which normally refer to compensation, gifts or titles, are forbidden by the Constitution for a president and his staff.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., said that documents the House Oversight Committee received from the General Services Administration this week showed “former President [Donald] Trump’s receipt of millions of dollars in emoluments from foreign governments and the Secret Service, as well as his efforts to conceal millions of dollars in losses from his failed hotel …”

He was referring to Trump International Hotel at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in Washington, D.C., a short walk from the White House. The Trump Organization leased it from the U.S. General Services Administration in 2013 before Trump became president, converted what was then the Old Post Office Pavilion into a luxury hotel, and sold it last year.

Foreign dignitaries said they felt pressured by the Trump administration to stay at the hotel when they were in Washington doing business with White House staff.

The allegations were part of a larger investigation by Congress about financial improprieties involving the hotel. The House Oversight Committee sued the General Services Administration to obtain information about the agency’s lease of the Old Post Office to the Trump Organization.

This week, House Democrats announced they dropped their lawsuit after the General Services Administration provided them with nearly all the documents they requested.

Concerns about a possible conflict of interest started when Trump began his presidential campaign in 2015. They prompted lawsuits by a private government watchdog group, the District of Columbia’s attorney general and a congressional committee.

The GSA provided some of the requested financial records before Trump became president. The agency stopped turning them over after the inauguration.

In court filings, the Oversight Committee said the General Services Administration’s refusal to give lawmakers all the information they requested violated the “Seven Member Rule” of congressional procedure.

The Seven Member Rule says federal agencies must give a congressional committee the information it requests if at least seven committee members request it.

A federal district court dismissed the Oversight Committee’s lawsuit in August 2018. The court said the lawmakers could not prove they would suffer any harm that would give them standing to sue if the GSA declined to give them information.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington revived the lawsuit in 2021. 

The appellate court said the refusal by the GSA to cooperate after the Oversight Committee invoked the Seven Member Rule gave the lawmakers “a concrete, particularized and individualized personal injury” and therefore a right to sue.

The General Services Administration appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing the courts were not the proper place to resolve disputes between a congressional committee and a federal agency. Instead, they should be handled “through negotiation and compromise.”

The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last month.

The Oversight Committee’s decision this week to drop the lawsuit ends the court case but does not halt possible legal action against Trump or his business enterprise.

The preliminary investigation showed Trump International Hotel had received about $3.7 million from foreign governments, potentially violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, according to a 2021 Oversight Committee report.

If true, the Trump Organization could be forced through further legal action to surrender the foreign money.

Meanwhile, Trump is facing additional criminal charges after the Justice Department indicted him Thursday for allegedly intentionally taking and mishandling classified documents. He faces other criminal charges in New York after an alleged sexual assault.

Regarding the indictment on Thursday, Raskin, the highest ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, said the indictment “tells us that former President Donald Trump put our national security in grave danger as he pursued yet another lawless personal agenda by pilfering and hoarding government documents.”

The U.S. District Court case was Raskin et al. v. Carnahan, case number 1:17-cv-02308, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

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