President Donald Trump filed his first factual response to a lawsuit accusing him of violating the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clauses, saying he’s the beneficiary of a trust set up to run his Washington hotel but doesn’t know who his guests are or how much they spend.
The District of Columbia and Maryland accuse Trump of violating Constitutional provisions that bar him from personally profiting from foreign or state governments. Justice Department lawyers filed their first substantive response late Wednesday, six weeks after a federal judge in Greenbelt, Maryland, denied for a second time their request to dismiss the case.
Responding to a 144-paragraph complaint, Trump denied many allegations and didn’t directly respond to others for legal reasons. In response to specific claims about his business, he said he lacked detailed knowledge about the operations of the Trump Organization and of a trust managed for his benefit by his two sons and a business aide, Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.
The president, for instance, said he didn’t know that the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which opened in October 2016, had hired a director of diplomatic sales or the specifics of stays there by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and by Linda McMahon, who heads the Small Business Administration.
He said he “lacked knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief” as to the truth of the plaintiffs’ claim that the Kuwaiti embassy spent between $40,000 and $60,000 there for its National Day celebration in February 2017.
The lawsuits were filed by D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, both Democrats. Other lawsuits accusing Trump of violating the emoluments clauses were filed in Washington and in New York; the New York case was dismissed by a judge.
As the suit moves toward a trial, the plaintiffs have said they will demand financial records from Trump and his business.
The case is District of Columbia v. Trump, 17-cv-1596, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt)
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