The Democrat attorneys general of the District of Columbia and Maryland filed a dubious lawsuit against President Trump over his private businesses.
The lawsuit relies on an obscure, probably nonjusticiable clause in the U.S. Constitution. The claim is that Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause, which prevents any “Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them” from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title … from any King, Prince, or foreign State,” by not divesting his businesses, which the American people knew about when they elected him. There is a dearth of case law on the topic. Perhaps this is because it’s not a legal question – it’s a political question.
The legal proceeding (available here) was filed today in the U.S District Court in Greenbelt, Md., and states that it “alleges violations by the President of two distinct yet related provisions of the U.S. Constitution that seek to make certain that he faithfully serves the American people, free from compromising financial entanglements with foreign and domestic governments and officials.”
Some of the more crazed left-wingers say if a foreign diplomat stays at a Trump hotel, this is evidence in itself that the Emoluments Clause has been violated. It’s a weak argument. Hotel charges aren’t gifts; they’re fees paid for services rendered. If, say, Trump and the diplomat agreed the latter would pay substantially more than the normal hotel rates, then maybe that would be considered a prohibited emolument. But nobody knows because the issue has never been adjudicated.
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine claimed today that Trump is “flagrantly violating the Constitution” and that “never in the history of this country have we had a president with these kinds of extensive business entanglements.”
“We know foreign governments are spending [at the Trump International Hotel] to curry favor with the President of the United States,” Racine said. “The Saudis are already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars at the Trump hotel.”
As Joe Schoffstall reports at the Washington Free Beacon:
The lawsuit filed by D.C. and Maryland mimics that of a lawsuit filed earlier this year by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a liberal legal advocacy group once led by Media Matters for America founder David Brock.
Noah Bookbinder, CREW’s executive director, appears on the lawsuit filed by the Democratic attorneys general. Stuart McPhail, CREW’s litigation counsel, is also listed on the lawsuit. The attorneys general are hoping the lawsuit will lead to the release of Trump’s tax returns.
Earlier this year, David Brock held a conference with more than 100 liberal donors at the posh Turnberry Isle Resort in Aventura, Fla., mapping out how Democrats would “kick Donald Trump’s ass.”
The Washington Free Beacon attended the conference and obtained a copy of a private and confidential Brock memo detailing the liberal operative’s plans to attack Trump using CREW, Media Matters, Shareblue, and American Bridge.
The memo spoke of defeating Trump through impeachment, delegitimizing his presidency via legal attacks spearheaded by groups such as CREW, and partnering with Facebook to combat “fake news”, among other objectives.
It also hit on how Brock would go after Trump using litigation efforts. “CREW will relentlessly probe [Trump’s] global conflicts of interest and administration ethics problems through aggressive use of research, open records requests, legal action, and [Freedom of Information Act] litigation,” the private documents state.
This silly, time-wasting lawsuit is exactly the kind of thing a sleazeball like David Brock would initiate.