Congressional Democrats suing President Donald Trump will seek disclosure of the president’s so-far-secret tax returns if their lawsuit proceeds to pretrial discovery, Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Friday.
Blumenthal, along with 29 other Democratic senators and 166 members of the House of Representatives, sued Trump this week, accusing him of violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.
“The tax returns would be one of the disclosures that the court would order,” Blumenthal said.
But, he said, the main goal of the suit “is to compel the President to obey the constitution.”
Blumenthal said he began working on the suit back in January when Trump refused to divest his assets or disclose to Congress all his business holdings around the world, unlike previous presidents. Blumenthal said he based the suit on the Emoluments Clause because it gives members of Congress unique rights and standing.
“The more I saw of what he was doing, and the more I learned about the reasons for this clause, the more I saw the foresight of our founders to expect this kind of abuse might happen,” Blumenthal said.
The clause was designed to ensure that the nation’s leaders would not be corrupted by foreign influence or put their own financial interests over the national interest.
It requires presidents to clear any gift or payment from a foreign leader with Congress.
“We do not know about these 500 companies in 20 countries around the world, literally an empire that is providing benefits to him,” Blumenthal said. “He has not sold his interests in the Trump organization…I just think he’s thumbing his nose at the constitution and the American people.”
The Foreign Emoluments Clause says, ”no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Trump’s vast business holdings have led to concerns, primarily among Democrats, that there is no way to determine whether a foreign government has a way to influence him. Trump has refused throughout his campaign and time in office to release his tax returns.
Although the whole Congress has not joined in the suit, Blumenthal said he is certain individual members will have standing to sue because Trump’s failure to disclose his holdings has nullified their ability to vote on their propriety, making them unable to do their job.
Asked if the emoluments clause couldn’t also be used to probe any of the plaintiffs or members of Congress, Blumenthal was unconcerned that this would be problematic for him or his colleagues.
“We file every year, and by the way I’ve made my tax returns available,” Blumenthal said.
Two other lawsuits have been filed against the President based on the emolluments clause, one by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., and the other by a nonprofit watchdog group.
But Blumenthal said the congressional Democrats’ suit is different because “in ours we have a standing that is unique to our role and responsibility.”
“We support their efforts…but the effort here is to bring claims that reflect a different legal basis,” he said.
Washington correspondent Ana Radelat contributed to this story.