The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia have expanded a lawsuit against Donald Trump, accusing the President of accepting gifts from foreign governments both as a government official and a private businessman, The Associated Press reports.
In the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, plaintiffs argue that the president is in violation of the Constitution’s “emoluments” clause, which prohibits the president from accepting gifts from foreign governments, because he has failed to divest himself from his lucrative businesses.
As noted by the news agency, the Trump Organization, which is now run by the president’s two adult sons, owns a number of international hotels, including one in Washington just blocks from the White House, where foreign government officials have often stayed during visits to the capital.
U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte has suggested he was not persuaded to toss out a previous lawsuit against Trump for profiting from foreign governments, citing “very little analysis in his declarations” that hotel stays by foreign nationals did not constitute gifts.
In a five-hour hearing for the new case last month, Messitte even suggested the plaintiffs go after the president as a private citizen, according to the AP.
“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 the hearing. “Should he be sued in his official and private capacity?”
If the case is allowed to move on to the discovery phase, which could allow for a detailed examination of the Trump Organization’s finances, and, eventually, end up in the office of special counsel Rober Mueller.