Maine Gov. Paul LePage is among those who will be subpoenaed as part of a lawsuit that accuses Donald Trump of profiting off the presidency.

The subpoenas, announced Tuesday by the attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland, aim to shed light on whether foreign and domestic government spending at Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel amounts to gifts to the president in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

The case has been challenged numerous times by Trump’s attorney, most recently last month when U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte denied a request to stay the lawsuit.

The flurry of subpoenas came a day after Messitte approved a brisk schedule for discovery in the case, the Associated Press reported.

LePage was drawn into the lawsuit after the Portland Press Herald reported that he stayed at the Trump hotel at taxpayer expense in February 2017. The newspaper submitted a Freedom of Access Act request to obtain records of the governor’s travel schedule and spending. LePage’s office still has not responded to that March 2017 request in full. His stay at the hotel was revealed in documents that the newspaper requested from the Maine State Police, which provides the governor’s security detail.

A Press Herald analysis found that LePage and his state police security team stayed at Trump International at least once – but potentially more times – in the spring of 2017. During the trip in late April and early May of that year, LePage met with members of Congress as well as top Trump administration officials on a variety of policy issues ranging from Medicaid reform to Maine wild blueberries. He also testified before a congressional committee on Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, which was one of 27 national monuments that Trump ordered reviewed by the Department of the Interior at LePage’s request.

“Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that the president is violating the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution by reason of his involvement with and receipt of benefits from the Trump International Hotel and its appurtenances in Washington, D.C., as well as the operations of the Trump Organization with respect to the same,” Judge Messitte wrote in a 47-page opinion in July allowing the case to proceed.

As supporting evidence, the judge singled out LePage’s visits to the hotel.

“In addition, at least one state – the state of Maine – patronized the hotel when its governor, Paul LePage, visited Washington to discuss official business with the federal government, including discussions with the president. Indeed, on one of those trips, the president and Governor LePage appeared together at a news conference at which the president signed an executive order to review orders of the prior administration that established national monuments within the National Park Service, which could apply to a park and national monument in Maine, which President Obama had established over LePage’s objections in 2016.”

FOCUS ON THREE QUESTIONS

LePage’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. It has said in the past that the governor did nothing wrong.

“The governor chooses hotels based upon several factors, including price, availability and security,” his spokeswoman, Julie Rabinowitz, wrote in an email to the Press Herald in March. “He has stayed at many different hotels in Washington, D.C., and any insinuation or speculation that a stay in a Trump hotel is made with an expectation or hope of some type of quid-pro-quo is false and irresponsible.”

The governor also has lashed out at Judge Messitte for agreeing to allow the case to go forward.

“I didn’t realize I could buy the president so cheap, a night in his hotel and he’s in my back pocket,” LePage told WGME-TV, also in March. “That’s all I’m gonna say. The judge that did that is an imbecile. He’s a complete imbecile.”

Tuesday’s subpoenas target more than 30 Trump-linked private entities and the federal agency that oversees the lease for Trump’s hotel in D.C., the AP reported. Subpoenas also were being sent to the Department of Defense, General Services Administration, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture and the IRS, all of which have spent taxpayer dollars at the hotel.

Other Trump entities that officials plan to subpoena include those related to his D.C. hotel and its management.

The subpoenas focus on answering three questions: which foreign and domestic governments are paying the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where that money is going, and how Trump’s hotel is affecting the hospitality industry in the District of Columbia and Maryland.

To help answer those questions, the subpoenas are asking for records of payments to Trump from state government and federal agencies that patronized the hotel. They’re also seeking information proving that hotel revenues are going to the president through his affiliated entities, including The Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust. Most of the records are being requested back to Jan. 1, 2015.

POTENTIAL PATH TO TAX RETURNS

The Justice Department declined to comment to the AP. Neither the Trump Organization nor the White House immediately responded to a request for comment Tuesday.

Trump’s Justice Department lawyers previously have argued that earnings from such business activities as hotel stays don’t qualify as emoluments, the AP reported. And in court papers last week challenging the judge’s decision to move the case forward, Justice lawyers objected to any discovery on a sitting president in order to avoid a “constitutional confrontation.” They also argued that any discovery would “be a distraction to the president’s performance of his constitutional duties.”

Because Trump is also the first president in modern history to not release his tax returns, any responsive records would likely provide the first clear picture of the finances of Trump’s business empire as well as his D.C. hotel.

There is no indication yet that Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine, both Democrats, would push for the president’s tax returns, at least in this initial round of legal discovery, given the sensitive nature of such a request and likely additional delays it would cause, the AP reported.

But tax returns for some of Trump’s business entities, including the state and federal tax returns for the Trump Organization, are also being requested.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

filed under: