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Attorneys General In D.C., Maryland Sue Trump For Violating Emoluments Clause


President Trump faces a new legal challenge, this time from the attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia. Their lawsuit says Trump is violating the Constitution by accepting profits from foreign governments for the use of his hotels, resorts and other properties. It's the first lawsuit of its kind against a president which involves the Constitution's Emoluments Clause. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: The lawsuit is brought by Maryland's attorney general, Brian Frosh, and his D.C. counterpart, Karl Racine. At the heart of it is President Trump's decision not to divest himself from his business empire while he's in the White House. He has handed day-to-day operations over to his two adult sons, but he's still profiting from his businesses.


KARL RACINE: Never in the history of this country have we had a president with these kinds of extensive business entanglements or a president who refused to adequately distance themselves from their holdings.

NORTHAM: Attorney General Racine says Trump's continued ownership in his global business entangles him with foreign governments who may try to gain favor with the president by staying at one of his hotels or resorts, a direct violation of the constitutional Emoluments Clause.


RACINE: President Trump is flagrantly violating the Constitution which explicitly bars presidents from receiving gifts or inducements from foreign or domestic government entities.

NORTHAM: The lawsuit also contends Trump's businesses are drawing away customers from hotels, convention centers and the like in Maryland and D.C. White House Spokesman Sean Spicer batted away the lawsuit by two Democratic attorneys general as partisan politics. Spicer pointed to a private lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, or CREW, which the Justice Department on Friday asked a federal judge to dismiss.


SEAN SPICER: The president's interests do not violate the Emoluments Clause. This lawsuit today is just another iteration of the case that was filed by that group, CREW.

NORTHAM: Laurence Noble with the Campaign Legal Center, a government watchdog group, says today's suit involves government entities taking on a president for violating the Emoluments Clause for the first time.

LAURENCE NOBLE: I think this is a very strong case. I mean you never know what the courts are going to do. One of the problems here is that the president has put us all in a very unique situation, one that we really haven't had to deal with before.

NORTHAM: The White House has 60 days to respond to the lawsuit. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jackie Northam is NPR's International Affairs Correspondent. She is a veteran journalist who has spent three decades reporting on conflict, geopolitics, and life across the globe - from the mountains of Afghanistan and the desert sands of Saudi Arabia, to the gritty prison camp at Guantanamo Bay and the pristine beauty of the Arctic.