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Trump can be sued in Md. for corruption, Frosh says

Attorney general cites president's 'contacts' with state

As a frequent visitor to Maryland, President Donald Trump can be sued as a private citizen in federal court in the state for allegedly violating the Constitution’s anti-corruption provision by diverting business from the state’s hotels to his own property in Washington, D.C., according to Maryland’s attorney general.

Brian E. Frosh, in papers filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt, responded to Trump’s argument that the president cannot be sued in Maryland because he has insufficient personal presence in the state to give federal courts there jurisdiction to hear the lawsuit.

Trump has also argued in a motion to dismiss the lawsuit that he cannot be sued as a private citizen under the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause because it pertains specifically to actions by presidents in their official capacity.

But Frosh countered Trump has promoted his D.C. hotel in The Washington Post, which has 148,000 Maryland subscribers, and has traveled often to the state to give speeches and host fundraisers, after which many attendees have left the Maryland event to be guests at his Trump International Hotel.

“The president’s contacts with Maryland, in other words, substantiate the … claims that he used his official platform to promote his interests with foreign and domestic governments, thereby diverting money from Maryland businesses to himself,” Frosh stated in the filing with Maryland Solicitor General Steven M. Sullivan. “That is sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction in this (Maryland federal) court.”

Frosh and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine have sued Trump as president and as a private citizen, alleging he has violated the Emoluments Clause by using the influence of the presidency to profit in the United States and abroad from his private real-estate holdings.

U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte has scheduled a hearing for June 11. The case is The District of Columbia and the State of Maryland v. Donald J. Trump, No. 8:17-cv-01596-PJM.

The Emoluments Clause permits the president to collect a salary but bars him from receiving “any other emolument” from the United States or any state or to accept “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state” without congressional consent.

The attorneys general contend Trump has unconstitutionally profited from leases of Trump properties by foreign-government-owned entities; the purchase and ownership of condominiums in Trump properties by foreign governments; the use by foreign governments and diplomats of accommodations, restaurant purchases and venues for events at Trump hotels; and the continuation of the U.S. General Services Administration’s lease at Trump’s Washington hotel.

Trump’s alleged violations specifically harm Maryland and D.C.’s capacity as proprietors of businesses that compete with the president’s holdings, the attorneys general contend in their complaint.

Trump has denied the allegations and argued in his dismissal motion that a sitting president cannot be sued because it would divert his attention from the pressing duties of office.

Frosh responded that presidential immunity extends only to lawsuits based on official acts, not a president’s management of personal finances and businesses.

“The immunity doctrine on which the president relies is designed to safeguard public officials’ ability to carry out their official functions,” Frosh wrote. “But the president’s acceptance of foreign and domestic emoluments via his hotel is not an official function of his office.”

Trump is being represented in his personal capacity by William S. Consovoy, of Consovoy McCarthy Park PLLC in Arlington, Va.

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