American University in Washington, D.C. has reported that there is a major new development in a lawsuit which was filed last year over President Trump’s business conflicts.
The lawsuit, filed in both Maryland and the District of Columbia, alleges that Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution. It has now been expanded to include Trump personally, and a new summons was delivered to his address at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.
This means that the plaintiffs in this lawsuit are suing Trump in his “official capacity” as president as well as in his “individual capacity” as a private businessman.
The basis for the emoluments clause lawsuit is that businesses in Maryland and D.C. have been harmed financially. This gives these businesses “standing” to sue Trump. The emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution prohibits public officials from receiving any sort of “emolument” (gifts or payments) unless they are approved by Congress.
Since being elected president many individuals and groups, both foreign and domestic, have patronized Trump’s hotels and resorts in order to curry favor with the New York real estate developer who is now the most powerful person in the world.
Trump has refused to divest himself from ownership of his global business empire, including the Trump International Hotel in downtown D.C.. This luxury hotel has been heavily used by foreign governments since it opened, which means that these governments are directly compensating Trump for use of his hotel. This appears to be a violation of the Constitution.
Another lawsuit against Trump for violation of the emoluments clause was thrown out of court by a federal judge who said the plaintiff in that case (an ethics watchdog group) did not have “standing” to sue. The lawsuit brought by businesses who have suffered economic harm does not have this problem, since they have suffered actual financial damages because of Trump’s actions. This gives them “standing” so long as they can prove these damages.
Legal experts have been of the opinion that the lawsuit by Maryland and D.C. businesses has a much better chance of moving forward than the lawsuit that was dismissed last year.
This latest move to name Trump as a personal defendant and issue him a summons in his capacity as an individual businessman is a new wrinkle that may give the suit a greater chance of success.
Trump’s lawyers have three weeks to respond to the summons.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.