The attorneys general of Washington, D.C. and Maryland say that they will file a lawsuit on Monday alleging that President Donald Trump has violated his constitutional oath of office, reports say. The lawsuit will allege that the president, by taking millions of dollars in payments to his businesses, has violated anti-corruption clauses in the U.S. Constitution. This would be the first lawsuit of its kind to have been brought by a government entity, the report noted.
A press conference announcing the lawsuit has been scheduled for Monday at noon. Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh will be present to explain exactly what the lawsuit entails. However, they provided a brief overview of their suit on Sunday night.
Among other things, the suit will focus on Trump’s businesses and the fact that he promised in January to shift control of those businesses into a trust to be managed by his sons in order to avoid any potential conflicts of interest and to eliminate the possibility of violating the Emoluments Clause. This is specific language in Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution which prohibits anyone holding public office from accepting payments or gifts in order to protect the United States from potentially corrupting influence by foreign powers.
According to Racine and Frosh, discovery in this suit would force disclosure of President Trump’s tax returns, something that has been a matter of contention since long before the election in November. This would be one of the very first steps, but would likely take some time to accomplish, as the case for just this step would probably end up before the Supreme Court with Trump’s defense lawyers being called to explain exactly why those tax returns should remain undisclosed. The tax returns could show some of what has been alleged for months now, including any possible payments to Trump that would constitute conflicts of interest and violations of the emoluments clause.
This lawsuit will be the latest in legal troubles that President Trump has faced since his inauguration just five months ago. Between investigations by the FBI, special counsel Robert Mueller, and various congressional committees regarding the possible collusion of Russian operatives and the Trump presidential campaign, this filing is adding more fuel to the fire. If a federal judge allows the case to proceed in court, it will be the second legal action relating to the Emoluments Clause, but the first by government agents. In January, a D.C. watchdog organization known as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a similar case. As is to be expected, both have significant obstacles to overcome in attempting to sue the President of the United States.
The Emoluments Clause has been a part of the Washington, D.C. conversation since Trump’s inauguration, with activists going so far as to project images and phrases on the outside of the Trump International Hotel in D.C., including the actual text of the clause. That text says, in part, “…no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.”
The Trump International Hotel actually plays a large role in the lawsuit, as both D.C. and Maryland will cite the manner in which they have been adversely affected by the hotel’s recent opening in such close proximity to the White House. Among other things, the lawsuit will allege that the hotel has tipped the scales in the travel and entertainment industry in favor of a business owned by Trump. The conflict of interest is a result of his broken promise to keep his public duties separate from his private interests, and that he retains at least some control over his businesses and still receives regular updates about the financial health of the Trump International Hotel and other enterprises.
“This case is, at its core, about the right of Marylanders, residents of the District of Columbia and all Americans to have honest government,” said D.C. Attorney General Frosh. “The emoluments clauses command that… the president put the country first and not his own personal interest first.”
Maryland AG Racine bemoaned the inaction of the GOP-controlled Congress and their unwillingness to fully grasp the gravity of these possible conflicts of interest.”We’re getting in here to be the check and balance that it appears Congress is unwilling to be,” he commented. “We’re bringing suit because the president has not taken adequate steps to separate himself from his business interests.”
With this new lawsuit on top of his already sizable load of legal issues, President Trump’s lawyers are definitely keeping busy. And the Attorney General of Maryland and D.C. aren’t going to give them any breaks anytime soon.
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