18 December 2018

The Justice Department on Monday asked a federal appeals court to intervene and stop a lawsuit accusing President Trump of raking in foreign cash at his DC hotel. Earlier federal Judge Peter Messitte ruled that the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia be allowed to move ahead with the lawsuit against Trump. The attorneys general have also requested tax returns and revenue statements of the president which he wants to be kept secret.

Federal appellate courts typically do not step in on legal disputes until there is a judgment at a lower court level. But Trump’s legal team said that this was an extra-ordinary situation and that required such intervention by the appellate court. They maintained that litigation would entail intrusive discovery into the President’s personal financial affairs and the official actions of his Administration.

The lawsuit, filed in June 2017, said Trump failed to distance himself from his hotels and other businesses, making him vulnerable to inducements by foreign officials seeking to curry favour.  The lawsuit alleges that Trump’s ownership stake in the Trump Organization violates the foreign emoluments clause in the Constitution that prohibits federal officials from receiving gifts or salaries from foreign governments without approval by Congress. Bahrain and Azerbaijan, have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on rooms and to host events at the hotel. Foreign governments and their lobbying groups, including Saudi Arabia are also using the hotel. Thirty-eight subpoenas have been sent so far to Trump associates and some federal officials. Tax returns and financial documents from Trump-connected businesses and people have to be provided under subpoena. This would give the plaintiffs insight into the financial operations of the Trump Organization.

The Trump Organization said it would donate any profits to the U.S. treasury from hotel revenue that met the foreign-government test, and has donated once so far. But the group hasn’t allowed outside auditing or released financial information to support how the profits were calculated. New York Post reported.

The Wall Street Journal said that Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are investigating whether President Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee misspent some of the $US107 million it raised from donations and whether some of the top donors gave money in exchange for access to the incoming Trump administration, policy concessions or to influence official administration positions.
An event-planning company called WIS Media Partners led by Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, a friend of Melania Trump received an $US25.8 million in inaugural funds for doing something or other.The company was formed only 45 days before the inauguration.

President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison on December 12 for orchestrating hush payments to women. Cohen said in a guilty plea in August that he was directed by Mr Trump to make hush money payments to two women who said they had sexual affairs with the President in the past. Mr Trump has denied the affairs and any involvement in the payments. Cohen also lied to Congress about a proposed Trump Tower project in Russia.