The attorneys-general of Maryland and the District of Columbia have filed a federal lawsuit against US President Donald Trump, alleging he violated the constitution by retaining ties to his sprawling global business empire and by accepting foreign payments while in office.
"Every time the president has spoken about drawing a line between his presidency and his businesses, he's walked those promises back", said D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine said at a news conference on Monday.
Two Democratic attorneys general in President Trump's backyard are behind a new legal attack against Trump's continued interests in his business empire.
"We are a nation of laws, and no one including the president is above the law", Racine said.
In New York, Trump Tower leases space to the Chinese government-controlled bank ICBC and Trump World Tower and other properties also focuses on foreign clients, including Russians, it said. A nonprofit restaurant group and others have joined the suit since. Furthermore, it prohibits the president from accepting gifts or emoluments from state governments.
Mr Frosh said Mr Trump regularly welcomed foreign diplomats to his hotel and appeared frequently at Trump establishments, "using his role as president to raise their public profile". It rests on the "Emoluments Clause", an 18th century provision in the Constitution that was aimed at keeping European royalty from corrupting American ambassadors with expensive gifts, and has never been fully tested in court.
Trump said in January he would turn over the day-to-day operation of his real estate business to his family and place its assets in a trust.
The suit detailed the popularity of the opulent Trump International Hotel with foreign officials since his January 20 inauguration, alleging the hotel "has specifically marketed itself to the diplomatic community". "That is the indispensable foundation of a democracy", said Attorney General Frosh.
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Constitutional scholars debate whether or not the Emoluments Clause applies to the president, or to businesses owned by him.
A Washington wine bar filed suit against Trump and his Trump International hotel in March, claiming that the president got an unfair business advantage because of the president's association with the business, according to The New York Times.
The attorneys general cite as examples of Trump breaching the clause reports that foreign governments and government-related entities are staying and hosting events at the Trump worldwide hotel in Washington, buying leases in Trump buildings at Trump Tower in Manhattan, and offering trademark deals and real estate permits.
Attorneys General say foreign governments are spending at Trump Hotels in order to curry favor with President Trump; they have mentioned Saudi Arabia in particular.
On Friday, the US Department of Justice claimed that those plaintiffs lacked the legal standing to sue because they were unable to allege specific harm to the president's integrity brought on by foreign revenue to his conglomerate.
Monday's filing comes on the heels of other lawsuits challenging Trump's decision to financially benefit from his enterprises while serving in the White House.
"And we think that our case will also further develop the record and the law for the court, which obviously will ultimately be the final arbiter, a necessary cog in the check-and-balance wheel", Racine said.