Two Democratic AGs to sue Trump for foreign payments to his businesses

Cameron Gross
June 20, 2017

Trump and his lawyers have argued the emoluments clause does not cover fair-value transactions, such as hotel room payments and real estate sales.

Racine and Frosh said in a news conference that the Trump hotel, just blocks from the White House, creates unfair competition for other businesses in the District and Maryland.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Washington Attorney General Karl Racine, both Democrats, said they needed to act because Trump is "flagrantly violating" the Constitution.

#White House spokesman Sean Spicer said that the business interests of President Trump did not violate the provisions of the Constitution.

The suit is the first to be filed by a governmental entity, but it is the third such suit targeting Trump for refusing to divest from his private business and allegedly benefiting from foreign agents and other guests with business before the federal government who patronize Trump's properties.

In other words, they must show that the people of D.C. and Maryland have been directly injured by Trump's continued ownership of businesses such as Trump Hotel. "It's unprecedented that the American people must question day after day if actions are taken to benefit the United States or to benefit Donald Trump".

The government also said payments to Trump's hotels do not qualify as a violation of the emoluments clause, which is meant to cover personal services performed by the president.

The June 12 lawsuit marks the first legal action taken against the president by state government officials for alleged violations of the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses and claims that the president has used his position to boost his business enterprises. No state has accused a president of violating the emoluments clause.

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Attorney General of Maryland, Brian Frosh said the President "pitched Trump International Hotel to foreign diplomats and to government officials" and "appears frequently at Trump establishments using his role as president as a marketing device to raise their public profile".

The challenge "represents an important new front in the emoluments war", according to Norman Eisen, head of the non-profit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that also filed a similar suit in NY on behalf of private plaintiffs. For example, the Trump property competes against Washington's convention center; a government-owned conference center in Bethesda, Md.; and the National Harbor resort in Prince George's County, Md.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the filed lawsuit, and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the case.

"The emoluments clauses are a firewall against corruption", said Frosh.

In addition, the suit says states have standing to sue because they entered a contract, the Constitution, that prohibits the president from receiving emoluments.

And it could have one important impact: Trump could be forced to release his tax returns as part of the discovery process.

"And we think that our case will also further develop the record and the law for the court, which obviously will ultimately be the final arbiter, a necessary cog in the check-and-balance wheel", Racine said. Trump said that he had "isolated" himself from his business dealings, handing over "complete and total" control of the Trump Organization to his sons.

Other reports by BadHub

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