Mary­land and D.C. sue Trump over busi­nesses

They say he is us­ing his of­fice to un­justly en­rich him­self.

Los Angeles Times - - THE WORLD - By David G. Sav­age david.sav­age@la­times.com

WASH­ING­TON — At­tor­neys gen­eral for Mary­land and the District of Columbia filed an anti-cor­rup­tion law­suit against Pres­i­dent Trump on Mon­day, ar­gu­ing that he is vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion by us­ing his of­fice to un­justly en­rich him­self.

It is the lat­est ef­fort by politi­cians in blue states to chal­lenge Trump in the courts and put a spot­light on the unusual con­flicts of in­ter­est that arise when a bil­lion­aire busi­ness owner oc­cu­pies the White House.

Their suit re­cites a now­fa­mil­iar com­plaint that Trump, by re­tain­ing own­er­ship of his ho­tels and other prop­er­ties, is vi­o­lat­ing the ban on a U.S. of­fi­cial ac­cept­ing “any present [or] emol­u­ment ... of any kind what­so­ever from ... any for­eign state.” They cite re­ports that the em­bassies of Kuwait and Saudi Ara­bia are book­ing ex­pen­sive rooms and hold­ing events at the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel on Penn­syl­va­nia Av­enue, pos­si­bly seek­ing to win fa­vor with the pres­i­dent.

The con­sti­tu­tional ban on emol­u­ments “helps en­sure that the pres­i­dent serves with un­di­vided loy­alty to the Amer­i­can peo­ple, and the Amer­i­can peo­ple only,” they said in the suit. “Never be­fore has a pres­i­dent acted with such dis­re­gard for this con­sti­tu­tional pre­scrip­tion.”

The suit may be less im­por­tant for what it says than for who filed it. Mary­land and the District of Columbia con­tend that as “sov­er­eign” en­ti­ties, they have a spe­cial stand­ing to sue the pres­i­dent in court.

A sim­i­lar suit over for­eign emol­u­ments was filed in Jan­uary by an ethics group known as CREW, for Cit­i­zens for Re­spon­si­bil­ity and Ethics, and it was later joined by a restau­rant and some pri­vate ho­tels. They too al­leged that Trump was vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion and that their busi­nesses were be­ing hurt by the un­fair com­pe­ti­tion.

CREW’s lawyers are part of the suit filed Mon­day, and they ar­gued that Mary­land and the District of Columbia were suf­fer­ing real in­juries be­cause some of their ho­tels and meet­ing ar­eas were los­ing busi­ness to Trump’s prop­er­ties. “The district and Mary­land have the au­thor­ity and right to vin­di­cate their in­ter­est in pro­vid­ing and pre­serv­ing a level play­ing field in the hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try,” they said.

A spokesman for the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee de­nounced the suit as “par­ti­san grand­stand­ing.” “This law­suit brought against our pres­i­dent is ab­surd,” said the RNC’s Lind­say Jancek. “The Amer­i­can peo­ple elected Pres­i­dent Trump to lead this coun­try, and it is time Democrats end their ef­forts to dele­git­imize his pres­i­dency.”

White House Press Sec­re­tary Sean Spicer said the suit ap­peared to re­peat the ear­lier com­plaint from CREW.

“It’s the same lawyers,” he said. “We will con­tinue to move to dis­miss this case in the nor­mal course of busi­ness.”

The Jus­tice De­part­ment has urged a fed­eral judge to throw out CREW’s suit on grounds that its plain­tiffs do not have stand­ing. Usu­ally fed­eral courts have said that a plain­tiff must show that he or she has suf­fered a spe­cific in­jury, even when as­sert­ing a con­sti­tu­tional prin­ci­ple.

But in re­cent years, states and their po­lit­i­cally minded state at­tor­neys have been get­ting in the court­house door.

In 2007, lawyers rep­re­sent­ing Demo­cratic-con­trolled states won a ma­jor vic­tory on cli­mate change when the Supreme Court agreed, by a 5-4 vote, that they had stand­ing to sue the George W. Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion for its fail­ure to reg­u­late green­house gases.

And dur­ing Pres­i­dent Obama’s term, red states won stand­ing to sue the ad­min­is­tra­tion over the health­care law and ex­ec­u­tive or­ders on immigration. For ex­am­ple, fed­eral judges in Texas ruled the state had stand­ing to sue the pres­i­dent be­cause it would spend more money if more im­mi­grants sought driver’s li­censes.

Har­vard Univer­sity law pro­fes­sor Lau­rence H. Tribe said the trend in fa­vor of state stand­ing bodes well for the law­suit.

“In re­cent years, there has been a rapid ex­pan­sion in the no­tion that the states must play an im­por­tant role in pro­tect­ing their rights — and, at times, the rights of their cit­i­zens,” Tribe and at­tor­ney Joshua Matz wrote Mon­day on the Take Care blog, which fo­cuses on ex­ec­u­tive power.

Alex Bran­don As­so­ci­ated Press

A LAW­SUIT cites re­ports that some Arab em­bassies are hold­ing events at the Trump ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton, pos­si­bly seek­ing to win fa­vor with the pres­i­dent.

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