Democratic attorney general nominee Sean Shaw is bringing Donald Trump and allegations of his misdeeds to front and center in the race for Florida attorney general.
Shaw promises that if he’s elected, he’ll investigate President Donald Trump’s Florida businesses for possible Russian money laundering and will join a lawsuit by other state attorneys general accusing Trump of violating the “foreign emoluments” clause of the Constitution.
That’s a clause prohibiting the president from personally profiting from dealings with foreign governments.
“The hundreds of millions of dollars in Russian shell company money that has reportedly been pumped into Trump properties over the past 20 years raises troubling questions about how the president is conducting his business ... and what he’s getting in return,” Shaw told a group of reporters in front of the Trump International Beach Resort in Sunny Isles Beach on Thursday.
The campaign of Shaw’s Republican opponent, Ashley Moody, called Shaw’s statement “partisan political rhetoric.”
In his news conference, Shaw said Trump “is using the office of the presidency to personally enrich himself. ... Special interest groups and foreign governments have pumped money into properties like this in order to curry favor with the president. That’s unacceptable.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2017 by the Democratic state attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Shaw said he intends to join it “on day one” if elected.
It argues, among other things, that because of dealings between Trump’s business interests and foreign entities, Americans cannot know whether decisions by his administration are being made in the best interests of the nation.
It cited bookings by government entities from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and elsewhere at the Trump International Hotel near the White House, saying the Trump property drew business away from other, nearby public and private facilities.
Trump administration officials have called the lawsuit a political ploy and argued that the term “emoluments” doesn’t include money Trump’s businesses make from hotel bookings.
In July, in a decision hinging on the meaning of the term, which isn’t specifically defined in the Constitution, a judge denied a request by Trump through the Justice Department to dismiss the lawsuit.
Shaw said the Trump resort in Sunny Isles Beach has been nicknamed “Little Moscow,” and that 60 Russians have bought $100 million worth of units there, including Russian government officials and a Ukrainian involved in a money laundering scheme that also involved a former Ukrainian prime minister.
Because Trump has refused to release his tax returns after promising during his campaign to do so, Shaw said, “It’s fair to ask, what’s he scared of, what’s he hiding.”
Shaw, a Tampa consumer insurance lawyer, also used the occasion to take a shot at his opponent, Moody, a former Hillsborough County judge and political ally of current Attorney General Pam Bondi.
“Pam Bondi had eight years to investigate Donald Trump — instead, she took $25,000 from him,” Shaw said. “Ashley Moody has promised to be an extension of Pam Bondi.”
That referred to a political contribution from a Trump foundation to Bondi’s 2014 re-election campaign, made around the time Bondi’s office decided not to pursue investigations of complaints from Floridians they had been ripped off by real estate seminars offered by another Trump business, Trump University.
Shaw said the nation appears to be on the verge of a constitutional crisis over Trump.
“It’s important to keep in mind that any investigation or action being taken by a state attorney general cannot be thwarted by the president,” he said during a Friday radio interview.