The Associated Press is reporting today that the Attorneys General of Maryland and the District of Columbia are expanding their lawsuit against President Trump for accepting illegal gifts from foreign governments by suing him both as President and as a private citizen.
U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte is presiding over a case brought by the Attorneys General that argues that Trump is violating the “emoluments” clause of the Constitution, which bars the President from receiving gifts from foreign governments because of his failure to divest himself from his hotel, real estate, and other businesses during his presidency.
While previous lawsuits making the same charges filed by progressive watchdog organizations were dismissed by a different federal judge over a “lack of standing,” meaning the plaintiffs could show no direct harm to themselves from the President’s actions, the Attorneys General of the areas around Washington DC are filing the suit to protect the many local businesses that face unfair competition from the Trump International Hotel in Washington and to reclaim the resultant lost tax revenue that would have otherwise been generated.
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Judge Messitte told the AP that he was not convinced by another judge’s decision to throw out a previous lawsuit against Trump for profiting from foreign governments, citing “very little analysis in his declarations” that hotel bookings by foreign citizens did not constitute gifts.
In fact, it was Judge Messitte himself who made the suggestion that the suit should be filed against Trump as a private citizen as well as in his role as President, saying:
“They’re not talking about things he’s doing as president, they’re talking about something he’s doing benefiting from as a private owner of a business,” Messitte said in a hearing in the suit last month. “Should he be sued in his official and private capacity?”
The judge is now in the process of deciding whether to allow the case to move forward to the discovery phase which would allow for a detailed analysis of the Trump Organization’s financial structure and day to day business operations. Now that will make for some interesting reading.