Trump Asks Court To Dismiss Lawsuit Against Him As An Individual
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Recall our previous posts, Attorney General Brian Frosh and Karl Racine Filed Lawsuit Against Trump, Due To Violation of the Emoluments Clause, and Is President Trump In Impeachment Territory?, President Donald Trump has now asked federal court to dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of violating the Emolument Clause of the U.S. Constitution. He is asking the judge to dismiss the complaint against him as an individual of violating the Constitution’s Emolument Clause related to private payments from other governments. Trump claims that the DC and Maryland state attorneys general can only bring a court action like this against him as President. He’s also being sued separately for violating the Emolument Clause in his official capacity as President of the United States.
Back in March of this year, a federal judge declined to dismiss the lawsuit which argued that President Trump’s continued stake in the Trump Organization is unconstitutional due to Trump’s violation of constitutional prohibition on accepting certain gifts or payments from foreign states without the consent of the United States Congress.
Maryland and Washington, DC, have also sued Trump over the U.S. Constitution’s “emoluments’ clause which forbids federal officials from accepting gifts or payments for services from foreign governments or U.S. states. The suit argued that Trump is violating the U.S. Constitution because his businesses are making money in various parts of the world and receiving payments from foreign governments as well as state and federal officials.
The biggest question of the lawsuit was whether the states could prove that they had “standing” in the case, meaning that they had suffered injury that would give them ground to sue. The U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte ruled that the states did have standing and the lawsuit could continue. Messitte’s decision was based on the fact that the states successfully showed that they have been injured by the advantages that Trump’s businesses gained over the states and their interests through his continued businesses stake in the Trump Organization while he is in the office as the President of the United States. However, Messitte did make a distinction: the states had standing to sue over the emoluments clause as it relates to the Trump Organization’s DC hotel, but not as it relates to other properties, such as Mar-a-Lago in Florida and Trump’s various ventures in other nations. Therefore, the scope of this case is limited to DC area because Maryland and DC government could show that they had suffered an injury there. This ruling was very important for the states, enabling the lawsuit to go forward and possibly leading to more discovery that could force uncomfortable disclosures by Trump and his company.
President Trump, even though not being subjected to the same conflict of interest rules as other federal officials, is still bounded by the U.S. Constitution. Thus far, Trump has refused to disconnect himself from the Trump Organization. He insists on placing his holdings into a blind trust overseen by his children, which is considered as meaningless by most ethics experts. Blind trusts are usually run by independent figures rather than family members. Furthermore, since Trump Organization carries Trump’s name, money spent on Trump Organization may be interpreted as money that could end up in President Trump’s pocket.
It is difficult to prove violations of the emoluments clauses because there is little precedent and the definitions are poorly understood. It is difficult to prove that any one has been wronged by any alleged violations. Nevertheless, Maryland and DC now have cleared some of the hurdles. Much remains to be seen. The judge so far has not made any rulings on the allegations in the case, accusing Trump of taking illegal gifts from foreign governments through his family’s business. The court is still weighing in the definition of emoluments and other questions pertaining to the lawsuit.
Gathered, written, and posted by Windermere Sun-Susan Sun Nunamaker
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