Closing In

Yesterday a federal judge got to issue the first ever opinion on a particular constitutional matter.

In the first judicial opinion to define how the meaning of the Constitution’s anticorruption clauses should apply to a president, Judge Peter J. Messitte of the United States District Court in Greenbelt, Md., said the framers’ language should be broadly construed as an effort to protect against influence-peddling by state and foreign governments.

He ruled that the lawsuit should proceed to the evidence-gathering stage, which could clear the way for an examination of financial records that the president has consistently refused to disclose. The Justice Department is expected to forestall that by seeking an emergency stay and appealing the ruling.

Greg Sargent wrote yesterday,

Two of the biggest stories in Washington right now — President Trump’s battle with lawyer Michael Cohen, and a federal judge’s decision to let a lawsuit alleging ongoing violations of the emoluments clause proceed — are both converging toward one endpoint. Both demonstrate the degree to which Trump places his personal interests before those of the American people, and both may shed light on that wretched reality in much more detail in coming days than Trump ever bargained for. …

… In that ruling, a federal judge denied Trump’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., which alleges that Trump, whose businesses are regularly patronized by foreign officials, is violating the Constitution’s ban on officials accepting emoluments from foreign governments. The court rejected Trump’s effort to define “emoluments” very narrowly, and instead accepted the plaintiffs’ argument that they constitute “profit,” “gain” or “advantage,” i.e., the sort of profits that go to Trump’s businesses. This means the case now moves forward to determine whether Trump reaped such profit, gain or advantage from foreign governments.

In an interview with me, Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is involved in the lawsuit, laid out the next steps: D.C. and Maryland will now seek discovery access to the financial records of Trump’s businesses — in particular, the hotel he owns in D.C. “We’re going to seek records to show what benefits and payments the president got, and that’s going to include extensive business and financial records,” Bookbinder said.

Of course, Trump’s lawyers right now must be looking for a Trump-friendly federal judge to issue a stay.

But if he fails, Bookbinder says, the discovery process could “prove that the president has been receiving payments,” demonstrating this in a new level of detail documenting “foreign officials staying at the Trump hotel,” which could in turn show that “the president is violating the constitution.”

There are all kinds of ways this could play out. The larger point is that Trump is now being squeezed on several sides — primarily by Bob Mueller, by the Southern District of New York’s Michael Cohen case, and now by this lawsuit. The New York Attorney General also recently filed suit against the Donald Trump Foundation, “accusing the charity and the Trump family of sweeping violations of campaign finance laws, self-dealing and illegal coordination with the presidential campaign.”

Hey Donald — there’s no where to run to and no where to hide. And you can’t get out of this with a bunch of counter-suits.

Update: New stuff happening —

WSJ: Trump Organization CFO Subpoenaed In Cohen Probe

Veteran senior Trump Organization official Allen Weisselberg has been subpoenaed to testify before a federal grand jury in the criminal probe of former Trump fixer Michael Cohen, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. …

…Weisselberg has worked at the Trump Organization since the 1970s, working his way up to become executive vice president and chief financial officer. He currently runs the business with Trump’s two adult sons. Weisselberg also served as the treasurer for the troubled Donald J. Trump Foundation, which was sued by the New York Attorney General for engaging in “repeated and willful self-dealing transactions to benefit Mr. Trump’s personal and business interests.”


Mueller Examining Trump’s Tweets in Wide-Ranging Obstruction Inquiry

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is scrutinizing tweets and negative statements from the president about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to three people briefed on the matter.

Several of the remarks came as Mr. Trump was also privately pressuring the men — both key witnesses in the inquiry — about the investigation, and Mr. Mueller is examining whether the actions add up to attempts to obstruct the investigation by both intimidating witnesses and pressuring senior law enforcement officials to tamp down the inquiry.

7 thoughts on “Closing In

  1. They just aren't closing in fast enough. I want to see Trump crying and cowering underneath the resolute desk saying.. "Please don't do this to me" as U.S. Marshals come to take him into custody..Just like Jim Bakker.

     I hope they not only get him.. I hope they topple the whole Trump Organization. A criminal enterprise if ever there was one!

  2. If nothing else hopefully these lawsuits will lead to Trump's taxes being exposed. His base always points to how "rich and successful" he is as a way to justify his blatant ignorance, his tax returns will likely put and end to that trope!

  3. The level of swirling corruption with Trump at the center is unprecedented.  No president, including Nixon, has even come close to the amount of crime and devilment Trump and his family are at the center of.  I hope all of them — Junior, Ivanka, Jared and the rest of them are feeling the heat about now.

    I'm with you Swami, I can't wait for the hammers of justice to start dropping, and all the resulting karma.  But these events show this slow moving train of justice is starting to pick up steam.  Wack-job House republicans, led by the credibility challenged Jim Jordan, issued ridiculous articles of impeachment against Rosenstein in their desperation to help Trump obstruct justice, another sign they know the walls are starting to close in on their orange god.

    Lastly, I hope the dems take the House, and when they do, they have the courage to not "look forward" but look back, hard.

    The republican congress for now is holding fast and refuse to do their duty, but as evidence comes out and guilty pleas rack up, it may just be too much for everyone in his corner to continue on.

  4. And this is why the conservatives keep seeding the courts with fellow conservative "MORANS!":

    The dumber the courts, the less democracy there is.

    And so, the the future is grisly.

    If we don't vote in November.

  5. Bill Clinton says of his encounter with marijuana that he didn't inhale. Trump says of his encounter with Putin that Trump didn't swallow.

  6. I disagree with Swami on the timing.  I want this to drag out through the Midterms, so that every Republican candidate and shill in the country has to squirm in misery and twist themselves into rhetorical knots, explaining how they support the "President" but not his actions. 

    It's a delicate dance.  Too much dirt, too fast, and the GOP will turn on Trump, elevating Pence to the Big Chair before we have enough Democrats in the House to (maybe) prevent the GOP from destroying what's left of the USA.  Too little dirt, too slow, and the GOP will keep control of House and Senate. Just right, and we get enough (decent?) Democrats in the House (and maybe Senate!) to…

    – Impeach Trump!

    – Keep Social Security, Medicare, EPA, etc

    – block/delay GOP plot to pack the Courts?

    – Investigate the GOP

    – Propose legislation that will give people good reasons to vote Democratic in 2020

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