Lawsuits filed over Donald Trump's "unprecedented constitutional violations"

The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution is front and center of a new suit against Donald Trump

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published June 12, 2017 12:15PM (EDT)

 (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta, File)

President Donald Trump is going to be sued by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., over his alleged violations of the emoluments clauses.

D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, both Democrats, are suing Trump on the grounds that he has not effectively separated his private interests from his public interests, according to a report by The Washington Post. In so doing, they accuse Trump of "unprecedented constitutional violations" because, by continuing to run businesses that receive money from both domestic and foreign sources, they have become "deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors."

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Since taking office, Trump has refused to fully divest himself from his business empire, meaning he still benefits from whether or not they turn a profit.

They specifically point to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which they claim violates the business rights of residents in both D.C. and Maryland. Officials and governments from foreign countries like Georgia, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Turkey have all done business there since Trump's election.

The Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution were written with the intention of preventing a "person holding any office of profit or trust" from being compromised by receiving "any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state." A similar provision was enacted to prevent presidents from receiving gifts or emoluments from specific states.

"Trump is the framers’ worst-case scenario," Norm Eisen, chairman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and told the Post. "A president who would seize office and attempt to exploit his position for personal financial gain with every governmental entity imaginable, across the United States or around the world."

Ironically, one strong indication of Trump's inability to separate his business from his personal life was foreshadowed in a March "Saturday Night Live" skit. It depicted Trump's son Eric accidentally admitting that he and his brother still inform their powerful father about the goings-on of his business empire.

Later that month, Eric Trump admitted to Forbes Magazine that he discusses with his father "the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it." He later said that he does so "probably quarterly" and added, "My father and I are very close. I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable."


By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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