Controversy over President Trump's refusal to release his tax returns may have fallen off the political radar, but it resurfaced in a very real way in a Manhattan courtroom on Wednesday. 

As NPR reports, that's where a hearing unfolded as part of a lawsuit brought by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The group argues that Trump is violating the obscure Foreign and Domestic Emoluments clauses of the Constitution, and if things go its way (by no means a certainty), that could lead to Trump's returns being made public. 

The details:

  • Main argument: The clauses essentially forbid officeholders from accepting gifts (or "emoluments") from foreign governments. CREW argues that Trump, because he didn't fully divest, is doing exactly that when foreign dignitaries stay at his hotels or otherwise engage with the Trump business empire. "Here's the sticky bit," observes Dahlia Lithwick at Slate. "We don't have a lot of doctrine in this area because it's never been litigated."
  • Hot dogs: The judge posed a hypothetical: Let's say a foreign government wanted Trump to sign a treaty, and it bought $1 million worth of hot dogs from a Trump-owned hot dog vendor to sweeten the pot. Shumate said that might be an emolument, but only if Trump signs the treaty. Daniels, however, said the founding fathers had an "all-inclusive" view of emoluments, with no quid pro quo necessary, per the Journal.

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