DC and MD suing Trump; conflict of interest

Democratic lawmakers are suing US President Donald Trump over foreign money flowing into his business empire

The lawsuit, the first of its kind brought by government entities, was launched by Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and his Maryland counterpart Brian Frosh, Xinhua news agency reported.

They are essentially anti-corruption provisions embedded in the Constitution. But in a brief filed last week in response to the NY case, the department argued that the earlier lawsuit should be dismissed because the emoluments clauses were never meant to prohibit a president from owning a business while in office.

A lawsuit filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia is the second such suit alleging that President Trump is violating the clause in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits officials from accepting emoluments from foreign states. "By contrast, University of Iowa Law Professor Andy Grewal marshaled historical evidence (mainly from the 19th century) showing that the traditional understanding of "emoluments" was limited to salary and other financial benefits attached to the holding of an office, and did not cover outside private business interests". Another place in the document where the term emolument comes up is in Article II, which is about the presidency and the executive branch.

"If the Justice Department is right, the emoluments clause has no meaning whatsoever", Frosh said. The president called an earlier, similar lawsuit about the so-called emoluments clause of the Constitution an issue "without merit, totally without merit". The latest case by the two Democratic attorneys general, however, has a better chance in court. And ProPublica discovered in April that the President can withdraw money from his many business holdings at any time.

In New York, Trump Tower leases space to the Chinese government-controlled bank ICBC and Trump World Tower and other properties also focus on foreign clients, including Russians, it said. But he has not sold them off as critics said he should do in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

The attorneys general also cited other properties in the region such as National Harbor in Prince George's County and the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in the District that could also lose business if customers patronize Trump's properties instead.

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 plaintiffs allege that, despite handing off the Trump Organization to his sons two be managed, Trump is still very much involved in its operations, and, therefore, receiving payments from foreign governments, which is prohibited by the Emoluments Clause. The shaping need not entail a specific quid pro quo with a foreign state; general affinities or preferences, or a natural inclination to favor those who have bestowed favors-or profitable business in the other direction may be sufficient to shape policy in ways detrimental to US interests.

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