House Democrats sue Trump Administration over D.C. hotel records

Here's how Trump's 'see-through' trust works
Here's how Trump's 'see-through' trust works

President Trump's administration being taken to court over his business interests -- again.

Democrats on the House Oversight Committee say they're suing the Trump Administration for withholding documents about Trump's luxury hotel in Washington, D.C.

It's the fifth legal claim targeting the president's businesses.

The lawmakers allege the administration won't give them information about the hotel's finances. They're also seeking material that could shed light on whether Trump is engaging in any self-dealing.

The Democrats say that lack of transparency hinders the committee from holding the president accountable for possible conflicts of interest.

"This hotel is not just a building with Donald Trump's name on it," said Rep. Elijah Cummings, the committee's top Democrat. "It is a glaring symbol of the Trump Administration's lack of accountability, and a daily reminder of the refusal by Republicans in Congress to do their job."

Republicans on the committee declined to comment about the lawsuit Thursday. The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The General Services Administration -- the federal agency that oversees the lease -- said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Related: Trump's ethics critics get their day in court

The Trump International Hotel has for months been seen by his critics as a symbol of corruption.

The hotel rents space in a historic post office three blocks from the White House. Trump signed the lease with the federal government two years before he began his presidential campaign.

Since his inauguration, Trump has effectively been landlord and tenant at the same time. A clause appears to prohibit an elected official from being party to the lease.

The controversial contract has spurred outrage from Democrats since Trump was elected a year ago. Between January and March, House Oversight Committee Democrats requested details on how the agency was handling the apparent breach.

The General Services Administration at first declined to provide specific answers. Then in late March it said Trump's company was in "full compliance" with the lease.

Shortly after that decision, the agency's acting directors said they would reject any requests from oversight committee members unless they were backed by the chairman, a Republican.

Without Republican support, the Democrats resorted to an obscure federal law called the Seven Member Rule.

Related: House Democrats demand info on Trump hotel

They say the provision requires executive branch agencies to provide any information requested by at least seven members of the Oversight Committee.

The Democrats are now hoping the court agrees with them.

It's the latest suit to be filed against Trump because of his vast business interests.

Nearly 200 Democratic lawmakers sued the president earlier this year, claiming he violated the Constitution by accepting foreign payments through his empire of hotels, golf courses, trademarks and other properties, all without the consent of Congress.

Others have filed similar suits related to that clause. One of those cases comes from the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia. Another is from a watchdog group of ethics experts based in D.C.

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