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Fight for Trump’s Tax Records Heads to DC Circuit

The D.C. Circuit is set to hear arguments Friday from a K Street lawyer who brought a federal complaint to scrutinize President Donald Trump’s personal financial liabilities.

WASHINGTON (CN) - The D.C. Circuit is set to hear arguments Friday from a K Street lawyer who brought a federal complaint to scrutinize President Donald Trump’s personal financial liabilities.

Unlike his tax returns — which Trump has resisted disclosing on the basis that they are under audit — Trump disclosed his financial liabilities before his election in May 2016.

Jeffrey Lovitky challenged that disclosure last year, however, on the basis that Trump had improperly commingled his personal and business obligations, obfuscating the degree to which the $300 million in debts that Trump disclosed implicate him personally.

U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly dismissed the suit this past April, however, after finding that Trump’s disclosure duty under the Ethics in Government Act was discretionary rather than ministerial.

“The court is without power to compel a decision in plaintiff’s favor,” the ruling said. “If defendant chose to disclose more than strictly necessary, that would not be unlawful on the basis of any provision that plaintiff cites.”

Months before the decision, Louis Clark, CEO of the nonprofit Government Accountability Project, warned NPR that Lovitky faced an uphill battle: "It's a tall order to establish standing.”

A solo practitioner who often sues federal agencies over complying with regulations, Lovitky also filed suit last year against first daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both of whom are White House advisers. In the same vein as the suit against the president, Lovitky accused the pair of illegal omissions from their public financial-disclosure forms.

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