A watchdog organization linked to top liberal operative David Brock is involved with a lawsuit against President Donald Trump alleging that he has violated the Constitution's emoluments clause, which bars foreign governments from paying U.S. officials.
A federal judge in the U.S. District Court of Greenbelt, Md. ruled this week that the suit filed last June may proceed, marking the first instance where litigation "of this kind has cleared the initial legal hurdle," the Washington Post reports.
The suit, brought forth by Karl Racine, D.C.'s attorney general, and Brian Frosh, the attorney general from Maryland, both Democrats, alleges "violations by the President of two distinct yet related provisions of the U.S. Constitution that seek to make certain that he faithfully serves the American people, free from compromising financial entanglements with foreign and domestic governments and officials."
The lawsuit mimics an earlier New York suit from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) that was ultimately dismissed by a federal judge.
The lawsuits are nearly identical because the organization is also quietly involved with the current suit against Trump.
Noah Bookbinder, CREW's executive director, and Stuart McPhail, CREW's litigation counsel, are both listed on the original lawsuits beneath the attorney generals.
David Brock, the Clinton ally who founded Media Matters for America, previously chaired CREW, which bills itself as a "nonpartisan" organization. Brock left his position in late 2016 so as to make the group appear less nakedly partisan.
"Due to my stepped up political activities in the American Bridge opposition research super PAC, I decided to step off CREW’s board to ensure its public reputation for non-partisanship," Brock said in a statement at the time. "I’m very proud of the work CREW has accomplished during my two years on board, and its work is more relevant now than ever."
CREW did not respond to a request for comment on sharing an office location with Brock's other entities by press time.
Confidential documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon in early 2017 showed Brock planned to use CREW to file litigation and complains against Trump and Republicans.
The documents were handed out to donors at a Florida retreat one month after Brock had officially stepped away from this position as director of CREW.
"CREW will be the leading nonpartisan ethics watchdog group in a period of crisis with a President and administration that present possible conflicts of interest and ethical problems on an unprecedented scale," the memo states. "CREW will demand ethical conduct from the administration and all parts of government, expose improper influence from powerful interests, and ensure accountability when the administration and others shirk ethical standards, rules and laws."
The organization said they would use "cutting-edge litigation" and an expanded legal team for their mission and would use reporters to "move major stories forward."
"Already, top law firms and talented lawyers across the country, with specialties including civil litigation and FOIA, are volunteering to help with the effort," the memo states.