Attorneys General for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland filed a lawsuit on Monday alleging that he violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution.
The lawsuit, brought by government entities and notably the first of its kind, centers on President Trump choosing to retain ownership of his company when he became president. In January, Trump told the American people that he was shifting his business assets into a trust managed by his sons to eliminate potential conflicts of interests.
The Attorneys General claims that Trump failing to shed his private business actions undermines public trust and is a violation of constitutional bans against self-dealing.
Attorneys general for D.C. and Maryland filed a lawsuit against President Trump on June 12, alleging that he violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by retaining ownership of his company as president. Attorneys general for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland say they will file a lawsuit on June 12 against President Trump. (Video Courtesy of PBS Newshour)
District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) filed the lawsuit based upon Trump’s many broken promises to keep separate his public duties and private business interests. One example argued—Trump’ son Eric Trump stating that his father, President Trump would continue to receive regular updates about his company’s financial health.
The complaint treads upon uncharted legal territory. No state has filed a lawsuit or accused a president of violating the emoluments clauses of the Constitution.
Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution prevents anyone holding an “Office” from accepting presents or emoluments from “any King, Prince or Foreign State.” The Founders’ idea here, of course, is to prevent foreign powers using gifts or money to corrupt the President’s loyalty to the U.S.
A second clause prohibits the president from accepting economic benefits from the federal or state governments, other than his salary.
Mr. Trump continues to own and profits from his business empire, as cited in the lawsuit: “It’s unclear on whether Trump is making decisions in the country’s best interest or out of “self-interested motivations grounded in the international and domestic business dealings in which President Trump’s personal fortune is at stake.”
One allegation in the lawsuit is that businesses owned by Mr. Trump divert customers away from businesses the District of Columbia and Maryland either own, license or tax, causing those governments direct financial harm. Second, the attorneys argue in their lawsuit that the Trump International Hotel in Washington competes with convention facilities owned by the city’s government, as well as with a resort in Prince George’s County that generates tax revenue for Maryland.
President Trump’s misuse of his position to increase patronage of his family’s hotels and the restaurants by foreign diplomats is but one example of abuse of power, and public trust argued in the lawsuit. Although the businesses pay taxes, State attorney argues that it puts the District of Columbia and Maryland at a competitive disadvantage.
The lawsuit, filed in a Maryland federal court, cites similar arguments in a lawsuit filed earlier in a New York Federal Court this year by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The Justice Department at the time asked a federal judge to dismiss the complaint their chief complaint was that the emoluments clauses do not prohibit presidents from owning businesses.
In their 70-page brief filed by the Justice Department on Friday—they argued that while Mr. Trump’s business interests did violate the Constitution, it would be up to Congress, not a federal court, to devise a remedy.
The Justice Department also contended that the plaintiffs in that case, such as the owner of the hotel and restaurant, did not report any revenue loss as a result of Mr. Trump’s businesses.
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