Lawsuit guarding other hotels’ interests—at double cost to taxpayers—aims ”to illuminate the unfair nature of that competition…’
(Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun) Brian Frosh, the Maryland attorney general who has dedicated himself to attacking President Donald Trump instead of representing the legal interests of his constituents, is at it again.
Frosh has grabbed at headlines recently for suing to save Obamacare from a Texas federal court and for leading a legal challenge to oppose acting U.S. Attorney General Matthew Whitaker. But his signature attack has been a court case pending against Trump for allegedly doing business with foreign governments while in office, known as emoluments.
Dozens of subpoenas were issued Tuesday to businesses affiliated with President Donald Trump and others in a lawsuit by Maryland and the District of Columbia that alleges the president violated a constitutional emolument prohibition.
Among those receiving subpoenas were 13 Trump organizations, including The Trump Organization Inc., Trump International Hotels Management LLC, Trump Old Post Office LLC and The Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust.
Four federal agencies were also subpoenaed.
The subpoenas were issued after a federal judge ruled Monday, over the objections of U.S. Justice Department lawyers, that the case’s discovery phase could proceed. Frosh, along with D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, called the decision “a huge step forward in our emoluments case.”
The case centers on foreign dignitaries paying to stay at the luxury Trump International Hotel in Washington. Frosh and Racine say Trump’s ownership of a business that accepts money from foreign governments violates the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause.
The subpoenas are designed to solicit information to show that commercial interests in Maryland and the District—such as competing hotels—could be harmed by any advantage the Trump hotel enjoys through its association with the president.
Eighteen entities said to compete with the Trump hotel were also subpoenaed.
“Today’s subpoenas focus on answering three questions: which foreign and domestic governments are paying the Trump International Hotel, where is that money going, and how is the Trump hotel affecting the hospitality industry in the District of Columbia and Maryland,” Frosh said in a statement.
“We’re seeking records of those payments through subpoenas to Trump business entities, as well as from federal agencies and state governments,” Frosh said. “We are also seeking information proving that hotel revenues are flowing to the president through his affiliated entities.”
Frosh said subpoenas directed to rival hotels, restaurants and other venues “seek to illuminate the unfair nature of that competition.”
In March, U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte declined to dismiss the case after the Justice Department argued that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue because they could not clearly show how their residents had been harmed by the payments.
Since Trump’s election, the judge said in a ruling last summer, “a number of foreign governments or their instrumentalities have patronized or have expressed a definite intention to patronize the hotel, some of which have indicated that they are doing so precisely because of the president’s association with it.”
At least one state—Maine—also patronized the hotel. Its governor and others visited the president and other officials in 2017.
Messitte issued an order Monday beginning the case’s discovery phase. In discovery, each side can request that the other answer specific questions or produce documents.
The Justice Department declined Monday night to comment on the judge’s order.
Maryland and the District are seeking an injunction prohibiting future violations of the emoluments clause.
The framers of the Constitution adopted the emoluments clause out of concern that foreign heads of state could exert influence over the president or other federal officials.
(c)2018 The Baltimore Sun. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.