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D.C. and Maryland call Trump’s bluff, file lawsuit to release his finances

"We're going to have the greatest appearance of impropriety…" (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s enterprises made up part of his 2016 presidential campaign, as the braggadocious billionaire blathered to anyone who would listen about how his business acumen would help him run a democracy. Well, he didn’t really go into specifics beyond waxing on about how really, really good he is at the business things, but that was the conclusion to be drawn as to how he’d make America not-so-ungreat again. And if that failed, he could always neg foreign lenders.

But when he became president, there were concerns that Trump might wield his considerable influence in favor of his organization. There’s no law prohibiting him from having business holdings, but Trump is beholden to the federal laws that require him to report his assets and business activities over the past year, as well as those that prevent any government official from using their office or resources for private gain. (Remember how Tom Haverford had to sell his shares in The Snake Hole Lounge because he worked at the parks department? It’s that kind of thing.) So in order to head off any implications of impropriety, Trump said he would create a trust to be managed by his sons—you know, the sons that have seemingly unfettered access to the White House, no matter how inappropriate that may be.


But this arrangement’s never seemed to pass muster among his critics, especially not when the White House Press Secretary takes the time to praise a Trump hotel/restaurant while on the job. Now The Washington Post reports that two attorneys general are suing Trump in an effort to determine whether or not he’s restrained himself from giving his businesses a leg up as president. D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, both Democrats, are the plaintiffs in a new suit against Trump that alleges “unprecedented constitutional violations.” The complaint indicates that between his business holdings and his position as leader of the free world, Trump finds himself “deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors,” and you can guess what that does for the integrity of the office (the Oval Office, that is; there probably wasn’t much in the former to begin with). As Frosh notes:

This case is, at its core, about the right of Marylanders, residents of the District of Columbia and all Americans to have honest government. To fully know the extent of Trump’s constitutional violations, we’ll need to see his financial records, his taxes that he has refused to release.

The plaintiffs cite the emoluments clause as a last line of defense against the president using his position to further his own interests, like, say, starting a war to get a better deal on wages for workers on Ivanka Trump’s clothing lines, or property for their latest hotel. The suit, which is seeking an injunction to stop Trump from “violating the Constitution,” needs a federal judge’s approval to move forward, as well as in determining just how to get Trump to comply with the injunction, should it be granted.

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