Society

Emoluments Lawsuit Seeks To Obtain Trump's Tax Returns

| by Lauren Briggs

President Donald Trump has said that he will not be releasing his tax returns any time soon, but a lawsuit that has gained two groups of high profile plaintiffs could potentially force his hand.

Political watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington told The Washington Post on April 17 that hospitality worker Jill Phaneuf, who books banquet halls in two Washington D.C. hotels, and Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, a restaurant and restaurant employees association, have joined in a suit alleging that Trump is in violation of the Constitution because the hotels and restaurants he owns do business with foreign governments, in violation of the Emoluments Clause.

Should the suit be successful, the president might be forced to release his returns. Even though there is no law compelling him to do so, discovery in the suit could demand the documents as evidence indicating whether or not Trump has been receiving monetary benefits as president.

"One of the many problems with the president's continuing business dealings with foreign countries is that without his tax returns, we do not know the full extent of his violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution," CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz told The Washington Post. "We seek to change that."

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Trump has no plans to release his taxes in the near future, White House press secretary Sean Spicer confirmed on April 17.

"The President is under audit," Spicer said during the press briefing, according to a transcript released by the White House. "It's a routine one ,that continues.  And I think that the American public know clearly where he stands. This was something that he made very clear during the election cycle."

CREW first filed the lawsuit in January, although experts said that the suit could struggle, since they did not suffer directly as a result of the defendant. But that is exactly what the new plaintiffs are saying -- the two of them allege that they could lose foreign clients who book Trump properties in an attempt to win over the favor of the president.

"It's damage to our members, both employers' bottom lines, and workers' loss of income and tips," ROCU Co-Director Saru Jayaraman told The Post.

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Libowitz said that the group "always felt" that they had "strong standing" in their argument, although he said that their new legal standing "is unquestionable" when combined.

"There are so many people and organizations that have reached out to us interested in joining our case [that], while these are the only new plaintiffs today, the possibility remains for more in the future," he added.

Sources: Washington Post (2), White House / Photo Credit: Michael Vadon/Flickr

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