Constitutional Law

Maryland and DC to file suit alleging Trump is violating the emoluments clause

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Trump Hotel

Attorneys general for Maryland and Washington, D.C. are alleging in a lawsuit to be filed Monday that President Donald Trump is violating the emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign governments through his business empire.

The federal suit claims the trust run by Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, does not adequately separate his business interests, the Washington Post reported. Reuters, ABC News and the Baltimore Sun are among the news organizations that followed with stories.

The emoluments clause states that, absent congressional consent, no one holding any office of profit or trust shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.”

The attorneys general allege that Trump violated the clause because foreign governments lease properties to the Trump organization, pay for hotel rooms owned by the organization and buy its condominiums, according to the Baltimore Sun.

The attorneys general say they will seek copies of Trump’s personal tax returns to show his foreign dealings. They told the Post that the U.S. Supreme Court will likely have to decide whether the returns should be released.

A separate suit alleging emoluments clause violations was filed in January on behalf of the liberal group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. Joining the suit in April were an individual who books hotel events and a group that trains and advocates for restaurant workers. The suit claimed the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., has an unfair advantage because of its association with the president.

The Justice Department argued on Friday that the plaintiffs lack standing because they can’t allege a specific harm caused by hotel revenue from foreign governments. The government also argued that market-rate hotel payments aren’t the kind of harm barred by the clause.

The state attorneys general argue the Trump’s D.C. hotel is taking business away from a convention center in the district that is owned by taxpayers, and a taxpayer-subsidized convention center in Maryland. The suit also claims Trump violates domestic emoluments because states may seek Trump’s favor through zoning exemptions or other benefits for his businesses.

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