The attorneys general in the District of Columbia and Maryland have launched a joint lawsuit today against Donald Trump alleging that his his profiting off foreign money when leaders of other nations stay at his resorts and hotels around the world. Trump has separated himself from his business to an extent, but will still earn money from his business though he isn’t directly involved day to day. The AG’s pushing this lawsuit contend that this amounts to Trump accepting money from foreign donors, which is something that is strictly forbidden in American politics.
The report from Fox News:
The attorneys general of Maryland and Washington D.C. reportedly plan to file a lawsuit Monday against President Trump alleging that foreign payments to his businesses violate the Constitution.
A similar lawsuit was filed in January, but the case from two Democratic attorneys general may stand a better chance in court because it is the first brought by government entities, according to Reuters. The attorneys allege Trump violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
According to The Washington Post, which first reported the lawsuit, the lawsuit focuses on Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his company when he became president. Trump insisted in January that he was moving business assets into a trust to be managed by his sons and eliminate possible conflicts.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said Trump has failed to keep his promises involving his businesses, including having his son Eric Trump update his father about the company’s finances.
This matter was always ripe for the picking when it came to criticism of Trump’s business arrangements in relation to winning the presidency. The Trump Organization has hotels all over the world, and they have become very popular destinations for foreign dignitaries hoping to garner favor with the new president. The most glaring example is the newly opened Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, which was met with huge fanfare and caters to many of these foreign nationals when they visit.
The Washington Post adds more:
The lawsuit, a signed copy of which Racine and Frosh provided to The Washington Post on Sunday night, alleges “unprecedented constitutional violations” by Trump. The suit says Trump’s continued ownership of a global business empire has rendered the president “deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors” and has undermined the integrity of 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.”
If the lawsuit moves forward, it will be a test of how far the president has distanced himself from his business dealings. The court could subpoena any of the surrounding documentation of how “blind” the arrangement truly is for Trump.
The other test could be trying to define what it means to accept foreign donations. For example, if a politician writes a book, then wins elected office, then anyone from a foreign government purchases that book, does it meet the same definition? I suspect in the Trump case it will be argued that the way the Trump hotel in DC was opened could have been overtly seen as a way to peddle Trump properties to foreign leaders which could be construed as soliciting.
According to CNBC the Trump Organization is trying to deal with this issue:
The Trump International Hotel recently took in about $270,000 in payments tied to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as the country fights to roll back a U.S. terrorism law, according to newly filed lobbying reports.
The spending, which covered lodging, catering and parking expenses, was disclosed in Justice Department filings last week by MSL Group Americas, a public relations firm. The filings detailed the work the firm engaged in between Oct. 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017 on behalf of the Saudis, Bahrain and other foreign governments.
In a statement Monday night, Trump Organization officials said they would donate any profits from the transactions at the end of the year.
The disclosure of Saudi spending, however, could spark fresh debate about President Trump’s decision to retain ownership of his real-estate and branding empire while serving in the White House. Trump turned over management of his companies to his adult sons and a veteran Trump Organization executive but still can benefit financially from his business interests.
That’s a prime example of the conflict that will always exist since Donald Trump retains ownership of the company, though is supposed to be separated from the day to day operations. There will always be the appearance of impropriety no matter how it’s handled by the company and the president. This lawsuit could flush that out.