Maryland and D.C. sue Trump for violating his oath to the Constitution

With Congress missing in action, states step into the void.

President Donald Trump walks down the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Md., Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Trump went to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., where he gave the commencement address. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
President Donald Trump walks down the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Md., Wednesday, May 17, 2017. Trump went to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn., where he gave the commencement address. CREDIT: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Donald Trump’s legal problems are multiplying.

On Monday, the attorneys general of Maryland and D.C. will file suit against President Trump, alleging that he violated his oath to the Constitution by accepting payment from foreign governments through his businesses.

The lawsuit cites the decision by the Embassy of Kuwait after the election to switch a major event to the Trump hotel, after initially booking the Four Seasons, which was first reported by ThinkProgress.

The case rests on two provisions of the Constitution.

The foreign emoluments clause prohibits the president from receiving “any present, Emolument, Office or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” This provision, Maryland and D.C. argue, is violated when foreign governments patronize his D.C. hotel and other properties, including the Kuwait event.

The domestic emoluments clause prohibits the president from receiving gifts or emoluments from the federal government or states. The lawsuit alleges that the federal government provided an improper benefit when it allowed Trump to maintain his lease for his D.C. hotel, which is federal property, despite an explicit provision banning elected officials.

Maryland and D.C. allege that Trump’s unconstitutional actions are stealing business away from other venues, like the D.C. Convention Center, that they own or support.

According to the lawsuit, it is necessary for them to sue to enforce the emoluments clauses of the Constitution to “ensure that Americans do not have to guess whether a President who orders their sons and daughters to die in foreign lands acts out of concern for his private business interests; they do not have to wonder if they lost their job due to trade negotiations in which the President has a personal stake; and they never have to question whether the President can sit across the bargaining table from foreign leaders and faithfully represent the world’s most powerful democracy, unencumbered by fear of harming his own companies.”

The lawsuit is the second that targets Trump over emoluments violations. The first was filed just three days after Trump’s inauguration by the Citizens For Responsibility And Ethics In Washington (CREW). In April, a restaurant association and others in the local hospitality industry joined CREW’s suit.

In a response, the Justice Department, on behalf of Trump, argued last week that the Constitution does not prohibit the president from receiving payments from foreign governments, as long as they are associated with “market-rate” transactions. According to this theory, the ability of the president to accept foreign payment is unlimited, as long as it is done through a corporate entity.

The government of Saudi Arabia recently spent $270,000 for lodging and food at the Trump’s D.C. hotel.