Published: Mon, June 19, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Over Foreign Payments to Trump Hotels, Two US Attorney Generals to Sue

The Attorney-Generals of Maryland and the District of Columbia plan to file a lawsuit alleging that foreign payments to US President Donald Trump's businesses violate the constitution, according to a source familiar with the situation.

The lawsuit on Monday said heavy spending by foreign diplomats and embassies at the Trump International Hotel just a few blocks from the White House, payments by foreign entities at his Trump Tower and Trump International Tower in NY, and other business operations effectively violate the US Constitution's ban on presidents enriching themselves while in office.

As the Senate investigates Russia's interference into the 2016 presidential election the president is now facing fire from the D.C. and Maryland Attorney's Generals in the form of federal lawsuit. "Never before has a president acted with such disregard for this constitutional prescription".

Attorney General Racine emphasized that the United States is a nation of law and no one including the President is above the law.

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Frosh says "elected leaders must serve the people, and not their personal financial interests". He replied that Trump's business interests "do not violate the Emoluments Clause", for reasons spelled out by the Justice Department's filing on Friday.

The Justice Department sought dismissal of the lawsuit last week.

Attorneys General say foreign governments are spending at Trump Hotels in order to curry favor with President Trump; they have mentioned Saudi Arabia in particular. Trump said he was shifting assets into a trust managed by his sons to eliminate potential conflicts of interests. The Constitution typically explicitly names the president and vice president when parts of the Constitution refer to them, with clauses generally referring to government officials not always applying. The White House previously commented that CREW's lawsuit is "totally without merit". "The suit was filed by two Democratic attorney generals, the lawyers driving the suit are an advocacy group with partisan ties", Spicer said, referring to the involvement of the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. "We can not treat the president's ongoing violations of the Constitution and his disregard of the rights of the American people as the new and accepted status quo". Specifically, they accuse Trump of improperly accepting payments from foreign governments through his business interests, arguing that this is a violation of the Constitution's once-obscure emoluments clause.

"It is unprecedented that the American people must question day after day whether decisions are made and actions are taken to benefit the United States or to benefit Donald Trump", Frosh said during the press conference. A watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has an emoluments lawsuit pending against Trump in NY, and the group's lawyers are serving as unpaid outside counsel in the case brought by Frosh and Racine.

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Both Attorneys General are Democrats, and Trump's Press Secretary has accused them of partisanship. It claims Trump violated two anti-corruption rules in the Constitution that prohibit the president from pulling in profits from businesses he owns, controls or prospers from.

"It's not hard to conclude that partisan politics may be one of the motivations" for filing suit, Spicer said.

Eisen said states are uniquely positioned to have standing in an Emoluments Clause lawsuit.

Frosh said Trump regularly welcomes foreign diplomats to his hotel and appears frequently at Trump establishments, "using his role as president to raise their public profile".

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