UPDATE — 6/14, 11:07 a.m. EDT: Nearly 200 congressional Democrats filed a lawsuit against President Trump for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause on Wednesday in Washington’s U.S. District Court.
According to court filings, plaintiffs say they have legal standing as the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the exclusive right to approve payments and gifts from foreign entities to federal office holders.
The suit is being led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) and Rep. John Conyers (Mich.), who said the lawsuit has united the “greatest number of congressional plaintiffs on any lawsuit against a president.”
Maryland and District of Colombia attorneys general have scheduled a noon press conference in Washington to announce the filing of a lawsuit against President Trump for “unprecedented constitutional violations”, centering around the Trump Organization’s continued business dealings with foreign and state governments.
Prior to Donald Trump’s inauguration in January, the New York businessman announced legal control of his multi-billion dollar real estate company, as well as other assets, would be handed off to his two sons. Subsequent to the announcement, Eric Trump admitted he would be in communication with his father about the Trump Organization’s finances.
Specifically, Maryland and D.C. are challenging Trump’s right to govern while continuing to own foreign assets under the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which prohibit the sitting-president from receiving payments from foreign or U.S. state entities.
Monday’s lawsuit, which will be filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland, is at least the third brought against President Trump for violating Article I, Sec. 9, Clause 8, of the Constitution. In a legal brief Friday, the Justice Department argued against a complaint filed in January by the non-profit group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), maintaining plaintiffs had no legal standing to sue and that hotel, real estate and other revenue do not fit the definition of “emoluments”.
The state of Maryland and District of Colombia, however, are in a position to credibly claim damages for the president’s constitutional violations, as the Trump D.C. hotel has taken business from surrounding tax-payer funded convention centers in both jurisdictions.
“In the emoluments clauses, we have these ancient air bags that were placed in the Constitution by the framers that are now being deployed,” said Norman Eisen, President Obama’s ethics lawyer and CREW board member. “Trump is the framers’ worst-case scenario; a president who would seize office and attempt to exploit his position for personal financial gain with every governmental entity imaginable, across the United States or around the world.”
The lawsuit further argues that Trump’s real estate holdings across the country are forcing states to curry favor with the president for special treatment and that Maryland and D.C., in particular, have an “intolerable dilemma”, to accommodate the Trump Organization, or “deny such requests and be placed at a disadvantage vis-à-vis states and other government entities that have granted or will agree to such concessions.”
An injunction against President Trump is being sought by attorneys general of both jurisdictions to force the New York businessman to stop benefiting from his global asset portfolio while in the White House.
[Washington Post] [AP] [Reuters] [Image courtesy Cameron Cottrill/ProPublica]