A lawsuit filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia is the second such suit alleging that President Trump is violating the clause in the U.S. Constitution that prohibits officials from accepting emoluments from foreign states.
Frosh and Racine allege that "President Trump's continued ownership interest in a global business empire, which renders him deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors, violates the Constitution and calls into question the rule of law and the integrity of the country's political system".
As a businessman, Donald Trump faced frequent lawsuits - allegedly refusing to pay for work that he commissioned, bilking people through Trump University and discriminating on the basis of race and gender. "It is time to open a House Judiciary Committee inquiry", Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democratic member of the committee, tweeted. Just days after Trump's inauguration in January, the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of NY.
Attorneys General Racine and Frosh expressed their thanks to their staffs and to several partners who provided assistance in assembling the lawsuit.
If the court does not grant the requests, the complaint says, they could be "susceptible to injury resulting from budgetary decisions that are subject to the corruption influence of emoluments". That fight would most likely end up before the Supreme Court, the two said, with Trump's attorneys having to defend why the returns should remain private.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer dismissed it as another attempt to destabilise the Trump Presidency.More news: Statehood wins questioned Puerto Rico referendum
Reaching back to the nation's founding, they said the Emoluments Clause was a "material inducement" - a provision to entice states to join the union - because many, including Maryland, had similar prohibitions in their own constitutions.
The attorneys general will seek an order in United States district court in Maryland preventing Trump from continuing to receive government payments beyond his salary.
So it is unusual to claim that President Trump violated the Constitution's Emoluments Clause merely by owning hotels and other business interests that are patronized by foreigners. Frosh said the president has discussed some of his business dealings on the campaign trail, noting Trump's mention that a state-owned Chinese bank has office space in Trump Tower in NY. "I don't think he's giving it to them for free, and there are many sources that have given us information about the payments that he has received". And ProPublica discovered in April that the President can withdraw money from his many business holdings at any time.
This is linked to the fact Trump maintained ownership of his company after entering the White House.. President Trump has defended his continuing business interests by saying that, as President, he is exempt from federal ethics laws that apply to other government employees, and that, in any case, he would place his businesses in a trust while his sons run the family company.
If a federal judge allows the case to proceed, Racine and Frosh say they will demand copies of Trump's personal tax returns in court to gauge the extent of his foreign business dealings. McConnell added that the clause "has nothing to do with competition between various corporations for the business of foreign governments".
RACINE: The Emoluments Clause essentially says that any federal officer, including the president of the United States, can not receive monies from foreign countries. "We will be seeking that information".