It seems Democrats will do anything to stop President Donald Trump from draining the swamp in Washington, D.C. — and now they’re trying to tie him up using little known legal loopholes.
The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia hope a little-known clause in the Constitution will force Trump to spend months inside a court room, instead of in the White House — just because his family has an international business.
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Financial experts have estimated the lawsuit will cost taxpayers millions of dollars — all so Democrats can score cheap political points.
The emoluments clause bars the president and other government employees from accepting foreign gifts and payments without congressional approval. A lawsuit filed in federal court in Maryland on Monday alleges Trump is violating the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments.
The lawsuit is “absurd”, according to Republican National Committee spokeswoman Lindsay Jancek.
“The actions of the attorneys general represent the kind of partisan grandstanding voters across the country have come to despise,” Jancek said. “The American people elected President Trump to lead this country, and it is time Democrats end their efforts to delegitimize his presidency.”
Trump’s unique status as both president and the head of a global business empire has been regularly attacked by liberals even before he took office. Trump and his attorneys argue the clause does not cover fair-value transactions, such as hotel room payments and real estate sales.
The attorneys general aren’t the first to sue Trump over emoluments. Just days after Trump’s inauguration in January, the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of New York. Since then, a restaurant group and two individuals in the hotel industry have joined as plaintiffs.
The Justice Department said Friday that those plaintiffs did not suffer in any way and had no standing to sue, and that it was unconstitutional to sue the president in his official capacity.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer noted that response at a White House briefing Monday.
“This lawsuit today is just another iteration of the case that was filed by that group CREW, filed actually by the same lawyers,” Spicer said. “So it’s not hard to conclude that partisan politics may be one of the motivations behind the suit.”
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The two attorneys general are using the case to find political ammunition against Trump through the discovery process in the court case, critics say.
The lawsuit also focuses on the fact that Trump chose to retain ownership of his company when he became president. Trump said he was shifting assets into a trust managed by his sons to eliminate potential conflicts of interest.
If a federal judge allows the case to proceed, Racine and Frosh say they will demand copies of Trump’s personal tax returns in court to gauge the extent of his foreign business dealings.
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“Mr. Trump is unique in American history in violating the emoluments clause,” Frosh said. “There is no other president whose domestic and foreign investments, the entanglements, have been so bound up with our policy and our interests, and he is the only president who has refused to disclose the extent of his holdings and interests, so, yes, it will be a subject of our lawsuit. We will be seeking that information.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article