D.C., Maryland Announce Suit Against Trump Over Business Ties

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• June 12, 2017 9:33 am


The attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C. are intending to bring a suit against President Donald Trump, alleging that he has violated the Constitution by accepting payments and benefits from foreign governments while in office.

The lawsuit is prompted by what some see as Trump retaining control of his business interests while serving in the presidency, the Washington Post reports, and related violations of the Constitution's "emoluments clause."

In January, Trump said he was moving his assets into a blind trust managed by his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr. to avoid conflicts of interest. Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D., D.C.) and Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D, Md.) are claiming Trump has failed to keep his business and political lives adequately separated, receiving regular updates about his company's financial state.

The lawsuit alleges "unprecedented constitutional violations," and that Trump's business ties leave him "deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors" that have undermined the U.S. political system.

"Fundamental to a President’s fidelity to [faithfully execute his oath of office] is the Constitution’s demand that the President … disentangle his private finances from those of domestic and foreign powers. Never before has a President acted with such disregard for this constitutional prescription," the lawsuit reads.

Racine and Frosh say that if their suit is allowed to proceed, one of their first acts will be to demand copies of the president's tax returns, documents which have been in high demand since Trump refused to disclose them during his campaign. They expect the fight to go to the Supreme Court.

The question that the two expect to put before the courts is grounded in the Constitution's emoluments clause, which stipulates that "no person holding any office of profit or trust under [the United States], 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."

Whether or not and to what extent the clause limits Trump's business dealings remains as of yet undecided by the courts.

Among potential violations, Racine and Frosh list the use of the Trump Hotel in Washington to host events held by the Embassy of Kuwait, the governments of Saudi Arabia and Turkey and the ambassador of Georgia.

The suit also attacks Trump for receiving what it alleges were unconstitutional financial favors from the U.S. General Services Administration, which allowed Trump's company to continue leasing the Old Post Office Building, where the Trump Hotel currently sits. A clause in the contract stipulated that no elected official could remain on the lease. The suit is claiming that the GSA changed its stance on allowing Trump to remain on the lease after an increase in their budget.

The suit seeks an injunction to stop Trump's violations of the emoluments clause, but does not specify how such an injunction is to be enforced.