A federal judge has mandated that Donald Trump’s businesses refrain from destroying any records related to a lawsuit brought by the Attorneys General of Maryland and Washington DC which accuses Trump of violating the emoluments clause of the constitution, according to a report in The Washington Post today.
The clause prohibits the President from accepting payments or gifts from foreign or state governments and has been the primary reason previous presidents, unlike Trump, have either divested themselves of their business interests before taking office or placed them in a blind trust so any conflicts of interest could be avoided.
Trump refused to divest his real estate and licensing empire, instead choosing to turn the day to day operations of the Trump family business over to his two sons, with whom he has sworn not to discuss business matters.
Given that truthfulness has not proven to be amongst the President’s salient qualities, the arrangement has led to multiple accusations that Trump is using the presidency to enrich himself and his family at taxpayer expense.
The frequent trips to Trump-owned country clubs and golf courses and the extravagant sums that the Secret Service has been forced to pay for things like accommodations and golf cart rentals have all put beaucoups bucks in the Trump family coffers.
These corrupt practices, plus the frequent use of the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC by lobbyists and foreign dignitaries looking to curry favor with the administration, have led to the suit being brought by D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh.
The prosecutors will now be able to serve subpoenas on Trump’s businesses to obtain the evidence that they will need to successfully prosecute their case.
“This ruling is an important first step in our litigation against President Trump for unlawfully receiving emoluments from foreign and domestic governments,” Racine said in a statement.
While the emoluments clause has been part of the constitution since the founding of our nation, there has never been a case prosecuted using the violation of it as a charge, primarily because there has never before been a President arrogant enough to even try to violate its provisions.
Since Trump continues to actively financially benefit from both foreign and state governments patronizing his properties, the two Attorneys General have charged Trump with “unprecedented constitutional violations.”
With subpoenas imminent, it will be interesting to see how Trump, Inc. responds to the threat of having the details of its business ventures exposed. Having previously promised to donate all foreign-generated profits from their DC hotel back to the US Treasury, a promise that would require detailed accounting to verify, Trump and his sons may decide to divest themselves of troublesome properties like they did recently with the Soho Grand Hotel in New York, which was also subject to an emoluments-related suit.
In that case, after the divestment plan was announced, Trump’s attorneys petitioned the judge to dismiss the case as moot, since the source of the illegally-earned money would no longer be under their control. Hopefully, Trump Inc. won’t be allowed to cast off the penalties for unlawful actions quite so easily, and the two prosecutors can bring their case to trial for the courts to decide how to mete out justice.