WASHINGTON – Attorneys General for the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland have sued President Trump for accepting payments from foreign governments via his business empire.
The lawsuit cites the US constitution’s emoluments clause, which says no federal official should receive a gift or a fee from a foreign government.
Trump had said in January that he was shifting his business assets into a trust managed by his sons to eliminate potential conflicts of interests.
The officials allege that Mr Trump has violated anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution by accepting millions in payments and benefits from foreign governments since moving into the White House, the BBC reports.
The White House has denied the claims.
The Justice Department on Friday said those plaintiffs did not suffer in any way and there were no grounds for the suit. The department also said it was unconstitutional to sue the president in his official capacity.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer said on Monday: “The president’s interests, as previously discussed, do not violate the emoluments clause.
“This lawsuit is just another iteration of the case that was filed by that group, Crew, filed actually by the same lawyers. So it’s not hard to conclude that partisan politics may be behind the scene.”
He added: “So we will continue to move to dismiss this case in the normal course of business.”
But DC Attorney General Karl A Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E Frosh say Trump has broken many promises to keep separate his public duties and private business interests. For one, his son Eric Trump has said the president would continue to receive regular updates about his company’s financial health.
The suit says Trump’s continued ownership of a global business empire has rendered the president “deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors” and has undermined the integrity of the US political system.
“Fundamental to a President’s fidelity to [faithfully execute his oath of office] is the Constitution’s demand that the President … disentangle his private finances from those of domestic and foreign powers. Never before has a President acted with such disregard for this constitutional prescription.”
Mr Trump is already contending with inquiries by congressional committees and a special prosecutor into his campaign’s alleged links to Russia, which American intelligence agencies accuse of meddling in last November’s US election in a bid to boost support for the property developer.