Political News

Maryland, DC attorneys general sue Trump over business ties

Posted June 12

President Donald Trump speaks during a Cabinet meeting, Monday, June 12, 2017, in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

— The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a federal lawsuit Monday against President Donald Trump, alleging he violated the Constitution by retaining ties to his sprawling global business empire and by accepting foreign payments while in office.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh joined District counterpart Karl Racine at a news conference in announcing the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in neighboring Maryland. Much of the case is focused on allegations that Trump's real estate and business holdings violate a little-known emoluments clause of the Constitution. The provision bars the president and other government employees from accepting foreign gifts and payments without congressional approval.

"The president's conflicts of interest threaten our democracy," Frosh said. "We cannot treat the president's ongoing violations of the Constitution and his disregard of the rights of the American people as the new acceptable status quo."

Trump's unique status as both president and the financial beneficiary of his global business empire raised questions about the emoluments clause of the Constitution even before he took office. Trump and his attorneys argue the clause does not cover fair-value transactions, such as hotel room payments and real estate sales.

The attorneys general aren't the first to sue Trump over emoluments. Just days after Trump's inauguration in January, the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York. Since then, a restaurant group and two individuals in the hotel industry have joined as plaintiffs.

The Justice Department said Friday that those plaintiffs did not suffer in any way and had no standing to sue, and that it is unconstitutional to sue the president in his official capacity.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer noted that response at a White House press briefing Monday.

"This lawsuit today is just another iteration of the case that was filed by that group CREW, filed actually by the same lawyers," Spicer said. "So it's not hard to conclude that partisan politics may be one of the motivations behind the suit."

The Trump Hotel in the nation's capital affects business in the Washington area and is part of the reason the lawsuit was filed, the two Democratic officials explained. They also said their action was non-partisan, and other state attorneys general, including Republicans, were welcome to join the suit. It seeks an injunction to stop what the two alleged are the president's constitutional violations.

Racine said he hopes the lawsuit will prompt Republicans in Congress and Trump to take steps that the suit is asking the court to take.

"Again, the reason why we're here is because the president of the United States, in a wholly unprecedented fashion, has decided to maintain a sprawling international business empire that accepts money without account from foreign governments," Racine said.

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."

"We have economic interests that are impacted, but the most salient factor is that when the president is subject to foreign influence, we have to be concerned about whether the actions he's taking — both at home and abroad — are the result of payments that he is receiving at the Trump Hotel, payments that he is receiving at Mar-a-Lago, payments that he is receiving at Trump Tower, payments that he is receiving in all of his other far-flung enterprises, and he brags about it," Frosh told The Associated Press in an earlier interview.

The lawsuit also focuses on the fact that Trump chose to retain ownership of his company when he became president. Trump said he was shifting assets into a trust managed by his sons to eliminate potential conflicts of interests.

If a federal judge allows the case to proceed, Racine and Frosh say they will demand copies of Trump's personal tax returns in court to gauge the extent of his foreign business dealings.

"Mr. Trump is unique in American history in violating the emoluments clause," Frosh said. "There is no other president whose domestic and foreign investments, the entanglements, have been so bound up with our policy and our interests, and he is the only president who has refused to disclose the extent of his holdings and interests, so yes it will be a subject of our lawsuit. We will be seeking that information."


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Julie Bykowicz contributed to this report in Washington.


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  • Henry Cooper Jun 13, 6:13 a.m.
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    Learned from the Clinton's. You remember them. The ones that made 153 million dollars doing speeches from 2000 to 2012 but claimed they had no money when they left the Whitehorse and had to get their loan guaranteed by Terry McAuliffe to buy a house.

    Obama out speaking to the same fat cats he shunned at an "insurance" conference...Or Bush jr pushing his own agenda at SMU.

    The sheep follow these leaders and buy this garbage.

  • Tom Baker Jun 12, 10:54 p.m.
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    The days when Trump might start to act like a president will be the days when he actually starts getting respected. I cannot imagine that he ever will. Don't forget that this is the man who hasn't wasted a single week without perpetuating a blatant lie.

  • Jeffrey Derry Jun 12, 10:28 p.m.
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    Well stated Bobby Caudle and Wayne Hill

  • Jeffrey Derry Jun 12, 10:25 p.m.
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    Strangely quiet these same lawyers were when the #clintons going all around the world picking up checks

  • William Sherman Jun 12, 9:41 p.m.
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    Ok--specifically how is Trump breaking or violating the Constitution--specifics please--not your personal opinion. How many times was Obama shut down by the Supreme Court?? And yet his supporters claim he was upholding the Constitution> Really>>>

  • Rhonda Arthur Jun 12, 8:38 p.m.
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    "THreaten our democracy", "ongoing violations", " disregard of the rights of the American people". Democrats are funny. Let the man do his job for petes sake.

  • Robert Swiger Sr. Jun 12, 8:37 p.m.
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    hHe is acting like a President more so than King Obama.

  • Robert Swiger Sr. Jun 12, 8:36 p.m.
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    Another ploy by the liberals who cannot get over they lost the election.

  • Henry Cooper Jun 12, 7:55 p.m.
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    My goodness this is business as usual from both sides and it is laughable that people still think there is a diff in political parties or their standard operations.

    Those of you saying he is getting what he deserved,,, do you have any idea how often the president is sued by a state? Obama was sued 50+ times. Maybe when they tried to impeach Bush or Clinton (both of whom were also sued by multiple states).

    This is nothing more than business as usual across the board and the media has made it the shiny object.

    smh as the machine roles on.

  • Chiqi Torres Jun 12, 6:35 p.m.
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    And if the man were acting at all LIKE a president, people might be willing to work with him. He's made his own bed(s).