This Week in Conflicts: A Whistleblower Complaint, the Fight for Trump’s Taxes and an Emoluments Lawsuit Revived


This week, a whistleblower complaint involving President Donald Trump comes to light, an emoluments lawsuit is revived and the fight for access to the president’s taxes continues.

Whistleblower Complaint

According to CNN, “a communication between President Donald Trump and a foreign leader prompted a whistleblower complaint that is now at the center of a dispute between the director of national intelligence and Congress.”

A U.S. intelligence official filed the complaint after being bothered by a “promise” the president is said to have made to a foreign leader. President Trump has dismissed the reporting and on Twitter said he would only “do good for the USA.”

The complaint was filed on August 12. It has led to a standoff between Congress and the acting director of National Intelligence because the agency is not turning the complaint over to the House Intelligence Committee.

Trump’s Taxes 

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has subpoenaed eight years of President Trump’s tax returns from his longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA.

The subpoena is part of the office’s investigation into hush-money payments, CNN is reporting.

This “marks a new escalation in the large-scale effort to obtain the President’s tax returns, a battle that has largely played out in courts as the Trump administration has continued to stand its ground against efforts to secure any of Trump’s financial information,” according to CNN. “Trump has claimed that ongoing IRS audits have stopped him from making his tax returns public, even though audits don’t prevent individuals from releasing tax returns.”

President Trump has now filed a lawsuit to block the subpoena. The suit has been filed against the district attorney’s office and Mazars. His lawsuit argues the subpoenas are unconstitutional.

Emolument Lawsuit Revived

An emoluments lawsuit, dismissed in late 2017, has been revived after a federal appeals court reversed an earlier decision.

Previously a judge said the plaintiffs did not have legal standing to bring the lawsuit. But, according to CNN, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has now said, “the district court did not apply the law correctly in finding that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the case.”

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit include a hotel operator and a group of restaurants. The suit claims, President Trump’s “vast, complicated and secret” business arrangements violate the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution which bars the president from accepting gifts from foreign governments without the permission of Congress.

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking. 

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.