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Frosh joins DC in suing Trump over foreign payments

20 June 2017

The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a federal lawsuit Monday against President Donald Trump, alleging he is "flagrantly violating the Constitution" by improperly retaining ties to his sprawling global business empire and by accepting foreign payments while in office.

The focus on Trump International Hotel, a large, stately building that used to be a central post office, stems in part from businesses in Washington and Maryland, including some partly owned by the local governments, complaining that its link to the president effectively gives it an unfair competitive advantage over them.

The two attorney generals argue in the lawsuit that President Trump's actions harm their "sovereign interests" as states that interact with Mr. Trump's company could receive special treatment from the federal government.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, will require the court to answer whether Trump has violated either the domestic or foreign emoluments clauses.

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"We are a nation of laws and no one - including the president of the United States - is above the law", said Racine.

The White House says a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia is driven by partisan politics and the president hasn't violated the Constitution.

"Were plaintiffs" interpretation correct, presidents from the very beginning of the republic, including George Washington, would have received prohibited "emoluments, '" the department said.

Maryland and the District of Columbia argue that they should be shielded from "undue pressure to provide emoluments to the president", and that other states can "curry favor from the president by providing emoluments that other states lack". Frosh said the president has discussed some of his business dealings on the campaign trail, noting Trump's mention that a state-owned Chinese bank has office space in Trump Tower in NY.

The emoluments clause of the constitution forbids federal officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments, and would also not allow Trump to benefit economically from the government, outside of the salary he earns from being president.

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Trump's business portfolio boasts of hotels in New York City, Las Vegas, Chicago and Miami.

Donald Trump has committed "unprecedented constitutional violations" by failing to appropriately disentangle his public responsibilities as president with his private interests as a businessman, according to a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington on Monday. Initially, Trump had mentioned that he will transfer the ownership of his company assets into a trust that would be managed by his sons to avoid the possible conflicts of interest. Last week, the Trump Organization, for instance, announced a new mid-scale hotel brand.

"If the Justice Department is right, the emoluments clause has no meaning whatsoever", Frosh said. While other presidents have released them, Trump has refused, and the attorney generals said that they want to see them in order to gauge the extent of his business dealings.

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".

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