conflicts of interest

In December 2006, workers broke cold ground in lower Manhattan, preparing the way for a glass-clad, towering hotel, to be called Trump SoHo.

If there's one thing President Trump's critics want from him, and he refuses to give up, it's his tax returns.

The returns didn't come up during Wednesday's hearing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York in Manhattan. But the hearing was the first step in a process that could loosen Trump's grip on them.

If the next step goes the plaintiffs' way, the case could make the president's tax returns surface.

On Wednesday morning, a federal judge in Manhattan will hear preliminary arguments in a case that claims President Trump is violating the Constitution's ban on accepting foreign payments, or emoluments.

Updated at 8:21 p.m. ET

Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price says he is reimbursing U.S. taxpayers for his official travel on private charter planes.

In a statement released on Thursday, he said, "Today, I will write a personal check to the US Treasury for the expenses of my travel on private charter planes. The taxpayers won't pay a dime for my seat on those planes."

The expense for his seat on those planes comes out to $51,887.31, according to an HHS spokesperson.

President Trump joined members of Congress on Wednesday in scrutinizing alleged government travel abuses by the secretary of health and human services and at least two other Cabinet officials.

"I was looking into it, and I will look into it, and I will tell you personally I'm not happy about it. I am not happy about it," Trump told White House reporters.

The federal ethics agency may be opening the door for anonymous donors to pay legal fees for White House staffers.

It could happen just as special counsel Robert Mueller draws closer to the White House in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump campaign.

Several conservative and pro-Trump groups are said to be considering creating such funds to help White House staffers who may be interviewed by investigators, but who can't afford Washington's high-priced ethics lawyers.

When President Trump commented last week on the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., a reporter asked him if he planned to visit the city.

Trump's reply veered far off the volatile topic of race relations: "I mean, I know a lot about Charlottesville. Charlottesville is a great place that's been very badly hurt over the last couple of days." There was crosstalk as Trump continued: "I own, I own actually one of the largest wineries in the United States. It's in Charlottesville."

The list of charities and nonprofits that have canceled fundraising events at Mar-a-Lago continues to grow. At least 20 groups now have pulled out of galas that had been scheduled for President Trump's country club in Palm Beach, Fla.

In announcing the cancellations, many of the groups cited the controversy surrounding Trump's recent comments that "both sides were to blame" for the violence that occurred during a white supremacists' rally in Charlottesville, Va.

How is Washington spending tax dollars that might benefit President Trump? Democrats on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee want to count the ways.

The committee's 18 minority members sent letters on Tuesday to the 15 cabinet departments and nine independent executive branch agencies, requesting documents on their spending at "businesses owned by or affiliated with the Trump Organization."

They said the letters are the first step in an investigation of federal spending involving Trump companies.

A government watchdog group says it has won a battle with the Trump administration, which will turn over visitor records for the president's Mar-a-Lago residence.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says it will publicly release the visitor logs upon receiving them by Sept. 8.

"The public deserves to know who is coming to meet with the president and his staff," CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub Jr. is turning in his resignation on Thursday.

The move follows months of clashes with the White House over issues such as President Trump's refusal to divest his businesses and the administration's delay in disclosing ethics waivers for appointees.

Shaub, an attorney, has accepted a job with the Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan organization of election-law experts.

A watchdog group says a top Trump appointee violated a federal law by retweeting one of President Trump's tweets.

In a letter sent Tuesday to the Office of Special Counsel, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requested an investigation into whether the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, improperly used Twitter for political activity.

President Trump, who is fond of dining at his Trump International Hotel near the White House, will have some company Wednesday — a roomful of people who paid as much as $35,000 or $100,000 each to be there.

The money will go to two joint fundraising operations — Trump Victory, which will take in large donations and Trump Make America Great Again Committee for smaller-dollar donors.

When Trump Victory started sending out invitations four weeks ago, it announced the price points, but kept the venue secret until a prospect had RSVP'd.

More than 190 Democrats in Congress joined together to sue President Trump on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

They say Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution by profiting from business deals involving foreign governments — and doing so without congressional consent. And they want the court to make it stop.

Trump has "repeatedly and flagrantly violated" the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., told reporters on a conference call.

Can states force President Trump to sell off his businesses?

That question is being raised by a new legal challenge to Trump's continued ownership of far-flung businesses.

On Monday, the attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit in a Maryland federal court, saying that Trump's failure to sell off his interests in hotels, golf courses, office buildings and other properties is undermining public trust and violating the U.S. Constitution's Emoluments Clause.

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