Judge tosses suit challenging Trump's financial disclosure

- April 10, 2018

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit claiming that President Donald Trump's financial disclosures are inadequate because they blur the lines between his personal debts and those owed by the businesses he owns.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled Tuesday that the Ethics in Government Act and applicable regulations issued by the Office of Government Ethics permit government employees to combine their debts in such disclosures.

"The Court has found that the applicable statutory and regulatory provisions do not prohibit the President from disclosing non-personal liabilities together with his personal liabilities," wrote Kollar-Kotelly, an appointee of President Bill Clinton.

Washington attorney Jeff Lovitky sued Trump in March 2017, alleging that the way Trump disclosed over $300 million in debts obscured the degree to which Trump is personally in debt.

But the judge said in her ruling Tuesday that even if Lovitky was right about Trump's forms being insufficient, there's nothing she can do about it. The ethics law has no provision allowing the public to enforce it, so Lovitky asked for an unusual order called a writ of mandamus that can be used to order government officials to comply with the law. However, Kollar-Kotelly said most precedents suggest that power should not be used against the president.

Lovitky said he plans to appeal the ruling.


"I'll take it to the next step. I’ll be filing an appeal tomorrow," the lawyer told POLITICO on Tuesday. "I believe it is still a strong case. ... I am hopeful that the court of appeals sees it differently" than the District Court judge did, he added.

Lovitky is also suing Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and Trump's daughter Ivanka over an alleged lack of detail in their financial disclosures, but the attorney said he does not believe that suit will be affected much by Tuesday's ruling. That case alleges that the couple, who serve as senior advisers to President Trump, failed to detail all the assets held by various private investment funds they have stakes in.

"Must of what the court said is not applicable to the Kushner case. There are different facts," Lovitky said, also noting that the mandamus concerns the judge raised don't typically apply to officials other than the president.

A Justice Department spokesperson had no immediate comment on the ruling.


 

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