The attorneys general in Maryland and D.C. filed a lawsuit against President Trump on Monday, claiming he violated the Constitution’s anti-corruption clauses by receiving foreign payments and benefits.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine argue Trump’s continued ownership of his real estate business since entering the White House violate the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which prohibit federal officials from receiving foreign gifts or benefits without consent from Congress.
“President Trump’s continued ownership interest in a global business empire, which renders him deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors, violates the Constitution and calls into question the rule of law and the integrity of the country’s political system,” the lawsuit read.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, outlines areas where Trump continues to violate the clauses, including leases of Trump properties held by foreign government-owned entities, hotel accommodations, spending at restaurants and purchases of other goods and services by foreign governments and diplomats at hotels.
“The President is making decisions every day with profound and far-reaching effects on American life,” the lawsuit read. “Yet Americans are left uncertain as to whether these decisions … are driven solely by unyielding loyalty to the country’s best interests, or rather are affected by self-interested motivations grounded in the international and domestic business dealings in which President Trump’s personal fortune is at stake.”
The attorneys general argue they have special standing to file the suit, because Washington and Maryland residents “are injured by decreased business, wages, and tips resulting from economic and commercial activity diverted to the defendant and his business enterprises.”
While Trump passed control of his holdings to his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. to avoid conflicts of interest, Frosh and Racine argue he never fully divested himself of his business, calling into question whether the arrangement satisfies the emoluments clause.
“The most important point is to prevent the president from putting his interests over our interests, over your interests, over the interests of Marylanders and all Americans,” Frosh said in a news conference held Monday.
Maryland and the nation’s capital each have a convention center partially subsidized by taxpayer dollars, and these areas are negatively affected by the Trump International Hotel, the attorneys general claim. They hope to gain access to the president’s financial information, including his tax returns, during the discovery process, Frosh said.
“There is no other president whose foreign and domestic entanglements have been so bound up with our policy and our interests,” Frosh said. “And he is the only president who has refused to disclose the extent of his holdings and interests.”
Frosh and Racine, who are both Democrats, said their hope is that others will join them in the lawsuit, but they said they have not yet received any calls from Republicans. Racine said in a news conference Monday that he felt Republicans in Congress were not taking President Trump’s affairs seriously.
“My hope is that these lawsuits that are being brought will cause the Republicans in Congress, and more importantly, perhaps President Trump himself, to take the very steps we are asking a court to take,” Racine said.
Trump has 60 days to respond with an answer or a motion to dismiss the complaint, Racine said.