This week the Attorneys General Brian Frosh of Maryland and Karl Racine representing Washington, D.C. held a joint press conference to explain why they have filed suit against Donald Trump for “flagrantly violating” the emoluments clause. The suit alleges that payments to Trump’s businesses by foreign governments violate anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution. Frosh and Racine, who are both Democrats, are saying that by continuing to run his business empire from within the White House, Trump is thumbing his nose at rules of law that govern such situations.
The lawsuit filed by Maryland and D.C. attorneys general is the first of its kind, but it’s just one more legal obstacle being thrown in the way of the Trump administration. Last month, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian involvement and political corruption in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Rosenstein wanted to make it clear that appointing Mueller is not an indication that any crimes have been committed or that prosecution is warranted at this time. Mueller will be under the management of Rosenstein but will be able to personally prosecute any federal crimes he uncovers in his investigation. It will be up to Robert Mueller to determine whether Donald Trump or any member of his administration had a link or association with the Russian government during the 2016 presidential campaign.
In the press conference held on Monday to explain the joint lawsuit filed against President Donald Trump, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine explained that on any given day, residents of Maryland and D.C. can’t say whether Trump is acting in the best interests of his business holdings or with residents of Maryland and D.C. in mind. Frosh says that it is these questions that compelled him to join Racine in filing the lawsuit.
“Constituents must know that a president who orders our sons and daughters into harm’s way is not acting out of concern for his own business. They must know that we will not enter into a treaty with another nation because our president owns a golf course there.”
Frosh and Racine also explained that one of the primary reasons that Maryland and D.C., in particular, are banding together to file a lawsuit that alleges that Trump is in violation of the emoluments clause has to do with the Trump-owned Trump International Hotel near the White House, which may be taking business away from the taxpayer-owned Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District and a facility in Maryland subsidized by taxpayers (including the convention center located at the Baltimore Inner Harbor).
Racine explained that recently the Kuwaiti Embassy canceled a booking for an event at the Four Seasons, switching it to the Trump Hotel instead. The governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Georgia have also made similar arrangements with the Trump International Hotel in Washington since Donald Trump has taken office, and Trump has personally stopped by the hotel to greet these parties as an alleged representative of the hotel chain. It is the proximity of Maryland and Washington D.C. to the seat of the federal government which makes these municipalities uniquely qualified to file this lawsuit and to see it through.
At the press conference, Mr. Racine explained to reporters that in the same way that states challenged Donald Trump’s travel ban, he and Brian Frosh would like the court to intervene in the conflict that they believe exists between Donald Trump’s ability to govern and the current Trump business commitments, especially those with foreign governments which allegedly violate the emoluments clause.
“Congress has given the president a total pass. State attorney generals are serving as a necessary check and balance in the Trump era where others failed.”
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After reading over the Maryland/D.C. legal filing, Andy Grewal, a University of Iowa law professor who has been critical of states filing suit against Donald Trump, explains that Racine and Frosh could consider it a win if the court released Trump documents to the attorneys general.
“All they really need is for a court to say Donald Trump needs to release his records to you. That would be one heck of a victory for them.”
What do you think of the lawsuit filed on behalf of the people of Maryland and Washington D.C. against President Donald Trump? Are violations of the emoluments clause akin to bribes?
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