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Saudi Arabia’s Trump Hotel payments may breach US constitution

Protesters denounce Donald Trump outside the Trump International Hotel, Washington DC, USA [Ted Eytan/FlickR]
Protesters denounce Donald Trump outside the Trump International Hotel, Washington DC, USA [Ted Eytan/FlickR]

A public-relations company working on behalf of the Saudi Arabian government has been cited in a lawsuit by the State of Maryland and Washington DC, which have accused US President Donald Trump of breaching the US Constitution, prosecutors revealed yesterday.

The unnamed company, believed to be the US firm Qorvis MSLGROUP, is reported to have spent over $270,000 in recent months on rooms, meals and parking at the Trump International Hotel in the US capital on behalf of Saudi Arabia. The Saudis paid the expenses for US veterans to visit Washington to lobby against a measure in Congress that could expose the government in Riyadh to a string of lawsuits.

The PR firm reportedly paid more than $190,200 for lodging, $78,204 for catering and roughly $1,600 for parking at the hotel as part of a campaign by the Saudi government against the Justice against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The act provides American citizens with a legal route for filing civil claims against foreign governments for deaths and other damages related to terrorist acts if the foreign governments financed those attacks. Thus, it paves the way for the relatives of over 3,000 victims of the 9/11 World Trade Centre atrocity to sue Saudi Arabia, which is seen by many in the US Congress as being ultimately responsible; 15 of the 19 hijackers on that day were Saudi citizens.

Read: Saudi Arabia pays $270,000 to Trump Hotel in spending on US lobbyists

In suing the US president, DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh accused Trump of “flagrantly violating” the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits US officeholders from taking anything of value from foreign leaders. They allege in the lawsuit that payments by foreign governments to Trump’s businesses violate anti-corruption clauses in the Constitution.

The lawsuit argues that DC and Maryland, specifically, are being harmed because the Trump International Hotel near the White House may be drawing business away from the taxpayer-owned Walter E. Washington Convention Centre in the District and a facility in Maryland subsidised by taxpayers.

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