Trump admin says Trump can profit from foreign hotel guests

President Donald Trump should not be barred from renting rooms to foreign governments, even those that say publicly s...

Posted: Jun 12, 2018 5:18 AM
Updated: Jun 12, 2018 5:18 AM

President Donald Trump should not be barred from renting rooms to foreign governments, even those that say publicly say they are doing so to curry the President's favor, a Trump administration attorney argued Monday.

Arguing the emoluments clause of the Constitution is "not a comprehensive conflict of interest" rule, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett Shumate told a federal court the President must actually take action favorable to the foreign government -- a quid pro quo, or exchange -- to run afoul of the law.

Trump is not responsible for a foreign official's "unilateral attempt to sow favor," Shumate said.

At one point, federal district judge Peter Messitte asked: "How is that different from bribery?"

Bribery, Shumate said, would require the President to have "some corrupt intent."

Maryland and Washington DC are suing, claiming Trump's ownership of the Trump International Hotel in Washington puts other hotels at a disadvantage in attracting business.

Messitte said he would decide by the end of July if the case should move forward or, as the administration has asked, if he will dismiss the case.

Monday's hearing in a Maryland federal court largely focused on the definition of "emoluments," an obscure word in modern parlance that the plaintiffs -- Washington, DC and the state of Maryland -- argued was used more commonly in the time the Constitution was written.

Eighteenth-century dictionaries defined the word as "a profit, gain or advantage," argued Stephanie Litos of the DC attorney general's office. There is little historical evidence of how the founders intended for it to be read in the Constitution, but "they used it in a broad way," she argued.

Shumate offered a narrower definition: "Profit arising from service to a foreign government," though he acknowledged the broader definition also appeared in the dictionary.

To accept the broader definition, he said, would bar federal officials from conducting personal financial transactions. The Constitution makes no distinction between the president and lower-level federal officials, he said.

"It didn't intend to prohibit a private commercial transaction," Shumate said.

Maryland Solicitor General Steven Sullivan said Monday a cloud of corruption hangs over Trump's ownership of the hotel "irrespective of whether such influence is actually being brought to bear."

The administration's reading of the Constitution "would prohibit the President from receiving $5 to carry a foreign diplomat's bags, but allow him to receive thousands of dollars to rent the same foreign government event space," Sullivan said.

The emoluments clause is largely unexplored legal territory, the judge noted. Among the precedents cited by the attorneys: President Barack Obama's book sales, President Ronald Reagan's pension from his time as California governor, and land President George Washington bought from a government auction in the 1790s.

Maryland Attorney General Karl Racine told reporters after the hearing that if the judge allows the case to move forward, he will move towards requesting hotel financial records. He would not say whether the plaintiffs will request Trump's personal tax returns.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 97049

Reported Deaths: 2919
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7148160
DeSoto562361
Harrison388374
Jackson352170
Madison331289
Rankin330879
Lee274870
Forrest250075
Jones249879
Washington225977
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Oktibbeha180152
Lamar172435
Neshoba1580104
Lowndes157958
Panola150731
Sunflower147346
Leflore141381
Warren140950
Pontotoc127916
Pike124051
Monroe123669
Copiah119233
Scott117627
Coahoma116229
Marshall111117
Lincoln110453
Holmes109859
Grenada109536
Yazoo106230
Simpson104746
Tate100638
Union99824
Leake96138
Adams94237
Wayne90521
Pearl River89453
Marion86835
Prentiss86317
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Alcorn82311
George78213
Tallahatchie77421
Newton77324
Winston74219
Tishomingo69138
Chickasaw68524
Tippah67217
Attala67025
Clarke60346
Walthall60226
Clay59618
Hancock58822
Jasper57715
Noxubee55116
Smith53615
Calhoun52212
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46520
Yalobusha43614
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38717
Humphreys37815
Quitman3775
Stone37512
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll32012
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2283
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 136055

Reported Deaths: 2364
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19752350
Mobile13449292
Montgomery8852184
Tuscaloosa8654118
Madison792778
Shelby601349
Lee592760
Baldwin552650
Marshall396143
Calhoun353444
Etowah352145
Morgan331428
Houston292021
Elmore267348
DeKalb243221
St. Clair233036
Walker231984
Talladega217129
Limestone211920
Cullman190720
Dallas179126
Franklin178129
Autauga177325
Russell17633
Lauderdale172333
Colbert166626
Blount161715
Escambia161124
Chilton158830
Jackson158111
Covington140327
Dale139244
Coffee13596
Pike120510
Chambers116842
Tallapoosa116485
Clarke110016
Marion96829
Butler91339
Barbour8857
Winston74512
Marengo72420
Pickens66614
Bibb65610
Lowndes65427
Randolph65413
Hale64428
Geneva6344
Lawrence62123
Cherokee61213
Bullock60614
Monroe5908
Clay5878
Washington55913
Perry5416
Crenshaw54032
Conecuh53611
Wilcox53211
Henry5075
Macon48318
Fayette4628
Sumter43819
Cleburne3825
Lamar3702
Choctaw35112
Greene30315
Coosa1723
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