Attorneys general expand lawsuit against Trump, going after him as a private citizen

A lawsuit by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia accusing President TrumpDonald John TrumpPoll: Both parties need to do more on drug prices Senate approves .3 trillion spending bill, sending to Trump White House: Trump will delay steel tariffs for EU, six countries MORE of accepting gifts from foreign governments will now challenge Trump as both a government official and a private businessman, The Associated Press reports.

Plaintiffs argue that the president is in violation of the Constitution's "emoluments" clause, which prohibits the president from accepting gifts from foreign governments, because he has failed to divest himself from his lucrative businesses.

The Trump Organization, which is now run by the president's two adult sons, owns a number of international hotels, including one in Washington just blocks from the White House, where foreign government officials have often stayed during visits to the capital. 

U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte has suggested he was not persuaded by another judge's decision to toss out a previous lawsuit against Trump for profiting from foreign governments, citing "very little analysis in his declarations" that hotel stays by foreign nationals did not constitute gifts. 


Judge George Daniels dismissed the previous lawsuit by a liberal watchdog group, one of many lawsuits against the president, on "lack of standing" and stated that the unusual situation of Trump's businesses do not fall within the purview of the clause. 

In a five-hour hearing for the new case last month, Messitte even suggested the plaintiffs go after the president as a private citizen. 

“They’re not talking about things he’s doing as president, they’re talking about something he’s doing benefiting from as a private owner of a business,” Messitte said in the hearing. "Should he be sued in his official and private capacity?" 

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Maryland, says that businesses in Maryland and Washington, D.C., are facing unfair competition from the Trump International Hotel in Washington and other properties in the neighboring state, claiming that both have lost tax revenue as a result. 

Messitte has yet to decide whether to dismiss the case or allow it to move on, likely to the discovery phase, which could allow for a detailed examination of the Trump Organization's finances.