As the shadows of James Comey’s damning testimony and Robert Mueller’s investigation hang over President Donald Trump, a new storm cloud is gathering above the White House. On Monday morning, attorneys general for the state of Maryland and Washington, D.C. will file suit against the president, claiming that he has violated the Constitution by accepting payments and benefits from foreign governments since he took office in January, according to The Washington Post.
The suit alleges that Trump is “deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors,” constituting “unprecedented constitutional violations.” At issue is the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which states that a president cannot accept payment or gifts from foreign entities. “Fundamental to a President’s fidelity to [faithfully execute his oath of office] is the Constitution’s demand that the President . . . disentangle his private finances from those of domestic and foreign powers. Never before has a President acted with such disregard for this constitutional prescription,” a copy of the suit, reviewed by the Post, reads. (Trump has promised to donate any foreign-government profits he receives at his properties to the U.S. Treasury Department. Last month, however, a spokesperson for the Trump Organization argued that it would be too hard to calculate the exact amount and said that the company is not actually keeping track of where hotel guests come from.)
The suit seeks an injunction to stop Trump from violating the Constitution, but leaves it up to the court to decide how best to accomplish that. If a federal judge allows the case to proceed, the attorneys told the Post that they will demand copies of Trump’s personal tax returns through the discovery process in order to assess the extent of his foreign business dealings. Trump, of course, became the first president in decades to not release his returns. Throughout the campaign, he promised to release them once the I.R.S. finished its routine audit, though experts said there was no reason to withhold them even during an audit. Since taking office, however, surrogates have said he will not release them anyway, reasoning that the American public doesn’t care to see them.
This latest suit is one in a series of legal battles over Trump’s business dealings that he has faced since taking office. In January, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued the president, claiming that Trump’s seat in the White House has given his new International Hotel in D.C. unfair benefits and advantages. A couple of months later, the suit was followed by a similar one brought by a D.C. restaurant. Last week, the Department of Justice defended the Trump businesses’ right to accept payments from foreign governments in a legal brief filed in the CREW case. The department argued that because stays and service at a Trump-owned property are fair-value exchanges for services, they do not violate the Emoluments Clause.
On Monday afternoon, White House press secretary Sean Spicer addressed a question on the suit, reiterating that the president was not in violation the Emoluments Clause, and inferring that the suit was based on Democratic politics rather than merit. “It started with a press conference as opposed to filing it,” he said. “We’ll continue to move to dismiss this case in the normal case of business.“
While the cases face uphill battles and hurdles in the courts, they do little to keep an already-careening White House on track. But the Trump businesses seem to be taking it in stride, unapologetically embracing their newfound place in American history in order to make a buck. Last week, Trump’s sons, who have taken over the reins as their father runs the country, announced a new budget-friendly line of three-star hotels branded with a patriotic bent and named “American Idea.” These hotels may be a far cry from the gilded glitz of the now-embattled Trump Hotel in D.C., but they do share one important thing in common: they will all help line the president’s pockets. Regardless of the merits of the latest Trump lawsuit, those profits aren’t exactly the “American Idea” framers of the Constitution had in mind.
Date Posted: Monday, June 12th, 2017 , Total Page Views: 3975
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