DC and Maryland Sue Trump for Corruption

The state of Maryland and the federal District of Columbia sued US President Donald Trump on Monday, arguing that he has violated the constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments without congressional approval.

Reports say that a similar lawsuit was also filed in January by plaintiffs including an ethics non-profit group.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer on Tuesday disputed that Trump's interests in his businesses violated the emoluments clause, pointing to the arguments raised by the Justice Department in its motion to dismiss the case in NY.

This is the first time a state has filed a lawsuit against a president for violating the Constitution's emoluments clause.

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 (The Foreign Emoluments Clause) and Article II, Section 1, Clause 7 (The Domestic Emoluments Clause) both prohibit elected officials from deriving non-salaried financial benefit from public office.

On Friday, the Justice Department's defense was that the suit held no water because the plaintiffs could not claim enough specific harm, that Trumps's business was causing.

The focus on Trump International Hotel stems in part from businesses in Washington and Maryland, some partly owned by the local governments, complaining that its link to the president effectively gives it an unfair competitive advantage.

Democratic attorneys general have taken a lead role in challenging Trump policies, successfully blocking executive orders restricting travel from some Muslim-majority countries.

Newly filed lobbying disclosures show the Saudi government recently spent about $270,000 at the Trump International Hotel in Washington as part of a larger lobbying campaign to ease a US terrorism law.

If a federal judge allows the case to proceed, Racine and Frosh say they will demand copies of Trump's personal tax returns in court to gauge the extent of his foreign business dealings.

The Saudi Arabian government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at the hotel, Raccine said, citing just one example of how the president's vast global businesses are entangled with state and foreign government interests.

So while Trump faced plenty of lawsuits before his presidency and a handful since, this lawsuit represents a big moment in the early months of his administration.

A small wine bar in the nation's capital also has filed a separate suit, claiming Trump's Washington hotel and restaurant, located in a federally owned building not far from the White House, pose unfair competition.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer noted that response at a White House press briefing.

"So it's not hard to conclude that partisan politics may be one of the motivations behind the suit".

To avoid conflicts of interest, Trump had promised in January to put his business assets in a trust, which his two sons would manage.

However, that fight would most likely end up before the Supreme Court, with Trump's attorneys having to defend why the returns should remain private, local media quoted the two as saying. They accuse Trump of improperly accepting payments from foreign governments.

"We have economic interests that are impacted", they said. Last week, the Trump Organization, for instance, announced a new mid-scale hotel brand.

Legal action was needed because "traditional checks and balances are failing us", said Washington, D.C.

  • Zachary Reyes