Maryland’s top attorney is co-launching the newest major lawsuit against our sitting president, this time for allegedly breaching his constitutional oath by accepting millions of dollars’ worth of payments from foreign governments.
The Washington Post first reported that Frosh and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine would file the lawsuit in federal court in Maryland on Monday. The pair have accused Trump of committing “unprecedented constitutional violations” by retaining ownership of his global empire after he assumed office in the White House in January.
Trump announced in January that he’d let his sons, Eric and Donald Jr., take control of the family real estate business. However, he’s still the owner and can profit indirectly from business dealings over time.
The biggest constitutional violation, Frosh and Racine argue, is of the Emolument Clause, found in Article I, Section 9 of our nation’s founding legal document. “No person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state,” the clause says.
But the Trump Organization has rented hotel rooms, leased properties to governments and let foreign entities buy condos, the attorneys general allege in their lawsuit. Some of those dealings have been reported here and here.
“We cannot treat a president’s ongoing violations of the Constitution and disregard for the rights of the American people as the new and acceptable status quo,” Frosh said at a Monday afternoon press conference. “The president, above all other elected officials, must have only the interests of Americans at the heart of every decision.”
While proving their argument may seem cut and dry, the states both have to show they have been harmed by President Trump’s actions for their argument to stick. In their complaint, Frosh and Racine argue their states could suffer because Trump’s business dealings can upset the status quo among all U.S. states:
“The District and Maryland are harmed by perceived and/or actual pressure to grant special treatment to the defendant and his extensive affiliated enterprises, or else be placed at a disadvantage vis-à-vis other states and governments that have granted or will grant such special treatment.”
Basically, if the federal government lets Trump continue profiting from his business dealings while serving in office, then U.S. states that decide to do business with him (i.e. purchase property, lease an office space) could receive preferential treatment compared to jurisdictions that do not, like D.C. and Maryland.
The General Services Administration has allowed Trump’s D.C. hotel to operate on the government-owned property it occupies, in part because Trump has promised not to receive any direct earnings from the hotel.
Trump has already faced a similar lawsuit from liberal watchdog group Center for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. On Friday, the U.S. Justice Department defended his actions in a Manhattan federal court.
According to Bloomberg, DOJ attorneys argued the clause doesn’t cover commercial transactions like office rent, hotel dealings and golf club fees, and that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and even Barack Obama profited from private deals on crop exports and international royalties on books.
A copy of Frosh’s and Racine’s filing against Trump is available here.
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