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Maryland, DC sue Trump for accepting funds without congressional approval

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.

A number of private citizens have already filed similar lawsuits against the president but it is the first time a state government has sued Trump over the issue. The US Justice Department, however, argues the Emoluments Clause does not prevent the business enterprises of a president or a federal employee from receiving payments from foreign governments. Mr Trump has apparently received millions of dollars from foreign entities in last six months as payments on properties his company owns. Attorneys General Brian E. Frosh of Maryland and Karl A. Racine of Washington, DC, filed the lawsuit in US District Court in Maryland. Both are Democrats while the president is a Republican. “Fundamental to a president’s fidelity to that oath is the Constitution’s demand that the president, as the highest officeholder in the land, disentangle his private finances from those of domestic and foreign powers,” the lawsuit reads. “Never before has a president acted with such disregard for this constitutional prescription.” The lawsuit, first reported by The Washington Post, comes months after state lawmakers in Maryland gave their attorney general the authority to bypass the governor in suing the federal government. The lawsuit alleges that Mr Trump has violated the Constitution through leasing properties held by foreign governments and by allowing foreign governments to buy apartments and hotel rooms in properties owned by his company. This includes the Trump hotel in Downtown Washington.
“President Trump’s continued ownership interest in a global business empire, which renders him deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors, violates the Constitution and calls into question the rule of law and the integrity of the country’s political system,” the lawsuit claims. The attorney generals argue that the constitutional clause that deals with this issue intends to limit the potential for corrupting influences from foreign governments. It clearly says that: “No person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state,” the lawsuit points out. The domestic Emoluments Clause says presidents will receive payment for their time in the White House and may not receive payment or “any other emolument” from a US state or a foreign government during this period. 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.