Dem calls for House inquiry into foreign payments to Trump hotel

The attorneys-general of Maryland and the District of Columbia have filed a federal lawsuit against US President Donald Trump, alleging he violated the constitution by retaining ties to his sprawling global business empire and by accepting foreign payments while in office.

The lawsuit on Monday said heavy spending by foreign diplomats and embassies at the Trump International Hotel just a few blocks from the White House, payments by foreign entities at his Trump Tower and Trump International Tower in NY, and other business operations effectively violate the US Constitution's ban on presidents enriching themselves while in office.

The suit, which was filed Monday morning in federal court in Maryland, claims Trump is in violation of the Constitution's foreign and domestic emoluments clause, which bars anyone "holding any office of profit or trust" from accepting "any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state".

But Stanford's Michael McConnell disagreed that the clause applies, saying Trump's ownership stake in the Trump Organization, which does business overseas, is not the same as Trump dealing with another country personally. "It's not hard to conclude that partisan politics may be one of the motivations" for filing suit, Spicer said.

For examples of questionable enrichment of Trump's vast, opaque web of businesses, the lawsuit cites Saudi Arabian real estate purchases, Chinese trademark protection and several regimes' patronage of Trump's Washington hotel.

The system of checks and balances has failed to address the president's conflicts of interest, according to Raccine, including Congress, which he said has given the president "a total pass on his business entanglements".

The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia announced they sued President Donald Trump on Monday, alleging he has violated the Constitution by taking payments from foreign governments as president.

The Justice Department asked a federal judge to dismiss the case on Friday.

"We know that foreign governments are spending money [at the Trump International Hotel] in order to curry favor with the president of the United States", Racine said. But the attorney General of the district of Columbia, Karl Racine and the attorney General of Maryland Brian Frosch believe that trump has broken his promise to stay out of private business. Earlier this year, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a similar case against the President. The brief argued Trump owned businesses are legally allowed to accept payments from foreign governments while he is in office. The Saudis spent $270,000 at Trump's hotel while lobbying against the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), which would allow US citizens to sue other governments for terrorist attacks.

"The President's conflict of interests threaten our country".

"Mr. Trump is unique in American history in violating the emoluments clause", Frosh said.

At their news conference, the two Democrats said their effort is non-partisan and that other attorneys general, including Republicans, were welcome to join their effort.

The president has called references to his alleged violation to the Emoluments Clause "without merit, totally without merit". It rests on the "Emoluments Clause", an 18th century provision in the Constitution that was aimed at keeping European royalty from corrupting American ambassadors with expensive gifts, and has never been fully tested in court.

  • Larry Hoffman