Judge orders discovery in Trump emoluments case

A federal judge has finalized the schedule for when state challengers suing President Donald Trump over proceeds from the Trump International Hotel get to seek evidence for their case.

Judge Peter Messitte has ordered that the initial disclosure of evidence occur by the end of the month in a lawsuit brought by the DC and Maryland state attorneys general. They should receive the rest of the evidence they seek, as well as depositions, by June.

They allege in the lawsuit that the President violated a constitutional clause banning gifts and advantages from foreign and domestic governments because of his family company’s stake in the Trump hotel in Washington.

Maryland and DC have said the Trump International Hotel’s operations put other nearby hotels and entertainment properties at a competitive disadvantage, and that the Trump hotel got special tax concessions for the hotel, which won its lease on a federally owned property before Trump’s election.

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine applauded Monday’s ruling, saying subpoenas are in the works: “We will now serve subpoenas to third party organizations and federal agencies to gather the necessary evidence to prove that President Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clauses — our nation’s original anti-corruption laws.”

The state will likely subpoena several organizations with Trump ties, including the Trump Organization and the trust that manages the President’s corporate assets.

The Justice Department has said it may ask the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals to intervene to stop the discovery process.

In a court filing before the judge’s ruling Monday, Trump’s lawyer wrote that the President has had to participate in various court activities in the case so far, including “the drafting, editing, and negotiation of a Protective Order and a discovery protocol for Electronically Stored Information,” indicating that the President may have been told what information about the Trump International Hotel he may no longer share publicly or with others outside the case if it moves forward.

His lawyer argued that “the President will need to review the flurry of discovery requests and responses that the other parties will trade; he also will need to review the significant third-party discovery Plaintiffs seek.”

In July, Messitte ruled against the Trump legal team’s request to dismiss parts of the lawsuit, and largely sided with Maryland and DC’s definition of emolument as an “advantage.”

Messitte’s July ruling offered the term “emolument” as essentially banning the President from receiving “anything more than de minimis profit, gain, or advantage” in his private capacity.

The court has not yet determined if Trump as an individual will be able to be sued in the case. His personal attorney in the case has asked the court for a hearing on that aspect.