The carefully maintained secrecy around President Trump’s finances is under unprecedented assault a year into his presidency, with three different legal teams with different agendas trying to pry open the Trump Organization’s books.
On one side is special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, who has subpoenaed Trump Organization documents as part of his wide-ranging investigation into the 2016 campaign. On another is Stormy Daniels, the adult-film actress seeking internal correspondence as part of her effort to be freed from a nondisclosure agreement centering on an alleged affair with Trump.
“I think under pretty much any reading of the judge’s order, we can get discovery of his personal financial information in that it relates to payments from foreign and domestic governments,” Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) said. He and D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) also plan to seek other documents related to the president’s D.C. hotel.
During the campaign, Trump played on his reputation as a successful businessman, boasting of his real estate projects while refusing to disclose financial information that might have corroborated that image. He deflected calls to release his tax returns, a disclosure every president has made since the 1970s.
No private real estate developer wants its plans, financial information and partnerships thrust into open view, as they amount to proprietary information. But that is exactly what could be at stake for Trump.
Alan Futerfas, a New York attorney representing the Trump Organization, said last month that the requests are “old news” and that the company’s “assistance and cooperation with the various investigations remains the same today.”
Whether Trump had an extramarital affair with Daniels a decade ago — something she alleges and he denies — her lawsuit is bringing scrutiny to the company as well.
Avenatti argues that the Trump Organization has “unmistakable links” to the case. He has sought depositions of Trump and Cohen and made up to 10 requests for documents, though a judge deemed the requests premature.
Previously, Avenatti sent a document-preservation letter to the company, asking it to preserve any paperwork and other records regarding Daniels.
“We will be able to get broad discovery in regards to the Trump hotel’s business and the sources of that business,” Racine said.
The Justice Department, which is defending Trump in the case, maintains that the case should be dismissed and has not said whether it will appeal the judge’s decision.
The company issued a statement saying that “the court has yet to rule on several additional arguments, which we believe should result in a complete dismissal.”
“The first time that they gave us the tax returns back, it looked like a crossword puzzle, because so much had been redacted,” O’Brien said. In one case, he said, “the only line item that was showing was [Trump’s wife] Melania’s modeling income, which we had no interest in knowing about.”
The case was ultimately dismissed, and O’Brien did not get the information he sought.