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Trump lawyer: President’s visits do not give Maryland jurisdiction in emoluments case

Attorney moves to dismiss emoluments lawsuit

President Donald Trump speaks during an event to announce the nomination of Kirstjen Nielsen to be Secretary of Homeland Security, in the East Room of the White House, Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Donald Trump (Evan Vucci/AP file photo)

President Donald Trump’s frequent visits to Maryland should not leave him vulnerable to being 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., Trump’s private attorney has argued in court filings.

Trump’s visits to a military base, a mountain retreat and fundraising events in Maryland do not qualify as a sufficient personal presence in the state to give federal courts in the state jurisdiction to hear the Maryland attorney general’s lawsuit against the president, added attorney William S. Consovoy in papers filed Friday with the U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

“There is hardly a state in the union that could not satisfy that criteria and, in turn, subject all sitting presidents to nationwide jurisdiction in their individual capacity,” wrote Consovoy, of Consovoy McCarthy Park PLLC in Arlington, Virginia. “That cannot be, and is not, the law.”

Consovoy made the argument in support of the president’s motion to dismiss Attorney General Brian E. Frosh’s claim that Trump, in his personal capacity, violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause by using the influence of the presidency to bring business to his vast real-estate holdings, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

Frosh has also sued Trump in his official capacity in a lawsuit filed with District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine.

Frosh, in rebutting the dismissal motion earlier this month, stated Trump’s ties to Maryland include his visits to Joint Base Andrews, where Air Force One is housed; the presidential retreat at Camp David; and fundraisers at hotels in the state, including the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center at National Harbor. Trump International Hotel also uses Maryland-based vendors, and the president has used these visits and business connections to drive business to his D.C. property in violation of the Emoluments Clause, Frosh stated in his filing with Maryland Solicitor General Steven M. Sullivan

But Conovoy countered these activities are too attenuated to any claim of corruption, stating Trump’s Maryland fundraisers bring revenue to those hotels, not Trump International. Conovoy added doing business with a Maryland vendor does not qualify as having personal contact with the state.

“That the hotel serves Maryland crabs and oysters is irrelevant,” Conovoy wrote.

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 a sitting president cannot be sued because it would divert his attention from the pressing duties of office.

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


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