Trump lawyer asked to submit financial disclosure without his signature

Trump lawyer asked to submit financial disclosure without his signature
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President Trump allegedly sought to submit federal ethics forms that detail his wealth without signing them, according to a report from the Associated Press. 

Trump’s lawyer, Sheri Dillon, reportedly told the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) that he should not have to sign the financial disclosure report because he was submitting it voluntarily, an accounting of letters obtained by the outlet. The signature verifies that the forms are accurate.

The head of the ethics agency, Walter Shaub, responded that he would not accept the forms without Trump’s signature, a standard part of the reporting process.

The OGE would process the forms, Shaub wrote in a letter earlier this month, “on the condition that the President is committed to certifying that the contents of his report are true, complete and correct. ... When we met on April 27, 2017, you requested that he be excused from providing this certification.”

The Associated Press received the correspondence through a Freedom of Information Act request. 

Following the report, a person with familiar with the matter told The Hill that Trump's lawyer had asked if the trustees of Trump's revokable trust should be the ones signing the documents "given that the president is prevented from having direct, contemporaneous knowledge about the changes in the compensation and values of the assets and liabilities contained in the trust."

Wealthy officials and lawmakers often put their assets into trusts and sign the disclosures because they are making a good faith verification that the forms are correct to the best of their knowledge, even if they aren't aware of the actual values.

Trump's oldest son, Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump faces enormous test with healthcare bill Brooks’s prior attacks on Trump could hurt in Alabama Senate race Scarborough defends CNN against Trump: CNN 'has more integrity' MORE Jr., and Trump Organization chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, manage the trust. Trump is still fairly close to the trust, according to a New York Times review in February, and still gets reports about profits or losses as a whole. He can also remove the trustees at any time.

Trump has resisted calls to set up a blind trust for his assets, saying that he is not required by law to do so.

The OGE is an independent agency that, among other things, writes guidance on ethics rules for the executive branch and collects the personal financial disclosures from officials. 

The financial reports are required for many senior officials, but the commander in chief is not obligated to submit one. Previous presidents, however, have opted to file them annually.

“Refusing to sign your OGE financial disclosure form is like refusing to take the oath before testimony,” Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, tweeted on Friday. 

Painter has been an outspoken critic of the Trump administration and its ethics policies.

Earlier this week, the White House announced that Trump would voluntarily submit a disclosure report “in due time,” which confirmed another AP story. 

The reports do not offer a specific evaluation of wealth for government officials, instead placing assets and liabilities in broad ranges. For example, one category offers a range of $1 million to $5 million. 

Over the last 40 years, presidents have also routinely disclosed their tax filings, something Trump has as yet declined to do. At one point during the presidential campaign, he said that he would “absolutely” release the returns.

"I have very big returns, as you know, and I have everything all approved and very beautiful and we'll be working that over in the next period of time," Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd in January. "Absolutely."

By the following month, he started backtracking on releasing the returns, saying that the IRS was auditing him and that the reports would reveal no relevant information.

Tax returns “have [zero] to do w/ someone's net worth,” Trump tweeted on Feb. 25. He had already released financial disclosures required for presidential candidates, which he said are “great.”

The tax returns would provide more information about Trump's sources of income, his charitable giving and how much taxes he has paid, among other things.

— Updated at 2:55 p.m.