June 12 (UPI) — Maryland and the District of Columbia filed a lawsuit Monday against Donald Trump that alleges the president violated the Constitution by accepting foreign payments for his private businesses.
The suit, filed in Maryland federal court, said Trump is violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign governments without the consent from Congress.
The legal action cites his hotels, golf courses and other commercial properties, including Trump International Hotel in Washington.
The suit says, for example, the hotel diverts customers away from businesses the District of Columbia and Maryland own, license or tax, causing those governments direct financial harm. The Trump International Hotel competes with convention facilities owned by the city’s government, as well as with a resort in Prince George’s County that generates tax revenue for Maryland.
The suit contends it’s not clear whether he is making decisions in the country’s best interest or out of “self-interested motivations grounded in the international and domestic business dealings in which President Trump’s personal fortune is at stake.”
Trump increases business from foreign diplomats and others doing business at his family’s hotels and the restaurants, the suit alleges.
The plaintiffs are seeking Trump’s personal tax returns.
The Justice Department has asked a federal judge in New York to dismiss a similar complaint, arguing that the emoluments clauses do not prohibit presidents from owning businesses. That lawsuit was initiated by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. After the suit was filed, a nonprofit restaurant group, a New York hotel and restaurant owner, and a woman who books events at hotels in Washington joined the plaintiffs.
The Justice Department contends that even if Trump’s business interests violate the Constitution, Congress, and not a federal court, must devise a remedy.
In March, two owners of the Cork Wine Bar sued Trump and the International Hotel, saying the president’s affiliation with the government-owned property has an unfair financial advantage.
The Trump Organization has said it would “track and identify” revenues by its hotels from foreign governments and donate them to the U.S. Treasury.