Two attorney generals have decided to sue President Trump for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. The emoluments clause was put into the Constitution by the founding fathers to prohibit representatives of the federal government from granting titles of nobility or receiving gifts and emoluments in exchange for preferential treatment.
The aim behind the clause tucked into section nine of the U.S. Constitution is to prevent foreign powers from exercising undue influence on the national interests of the United States and its people. Founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton positioned their opposition to attempts at foreign gifts and bribery in history. Both England and France in the late 19th century had fallen victim to corruption from foreign governments, and the founding fathers didn’t want to see that happen to the United States.
Bringing things back to today’s politics, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh suspect that President Trump may be unconstitutionally profiting from his time in office. Both attorneys general sued the president earlier this month for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution and failing to divest himself fully from his family-operated business.
Technically, the two attorneys general are suing for President Trump’s alleged violation of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clause. (An emolument is an antiquated term for a profit or a fee that one collects while serving in office.) In the language of the original emoluments clause, a sitting president must have the expressed consent of Congress before taking any kind of inducement or gift from a foreign power.
Attorney General Racine opined that President Trump has rode roughshod of the anti-corruption laws included in the U.S. Constitution. Both attorneys general suing the president are doing so partly to show that nobody is above the law. Each also believes that the state’s attorneys general have a binding duty to ensure that there are safeguards along the way to thwart federal politicians from bending the rules for material advantage.
Both Attorney General Racine and Attorney General Frosh have sought an injunction to prevent President Trump from continuing to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution. Many from around the country forcefully assert that the president’s duty is foremost to the American people; personal economic advantage should not enter into the picture. Attorney General Frosh concedes that he is spearheading the lawsuit partly to prevent this behavior from becoming more normalized.