President Donald Trump's conduct was the subject Manhattan federal court as the Justice Department defended a lawsuit by the legal watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The question being litigated is whether Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution with his ongoing business activities.
Hearing was over a motion to dismiss. The judges ruling, however, could end up being legally irrelevant if special counsel Robert Mueller is investigating the same alleged legal violations.
Former chief White House ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration, Richard Painter, is also the vice-chair of the watchdog case. MSNBC chief legal correspondent Ari Melber asked Painter to explain today's oral arguments.
Painter explained on "The Beat" that, "the conduct of the president is in violation of the Constitution."
"This is about a lot more than just who stays in the hotels and books the hotel rooms, it's about the financing of the Trump business empire," Painter explained.
"Any real estate empire is dependent upon an enormous amount of borrowed money and other equity investors. We don't know they are," Painter noted. "All we know about Donald Trump is that ever since the mid 1990s, New York banks wouldn't loan any money to him because they didn't like not getting paid back."
"We don't know where he's getting his money from, and if it's from foreign governments, it's a violation of the Constitution," Painter concluded.
As Donald Trump neither released his taxes nor put his business interests into a blind trust, there is much that CREW hopes to learn as the lawsuit advances.
"Does he have a dependency relationship with Russia? With China? With any other foreign government?" Painter wondered. "We want the judge in this case to find out the facts and then decide if the president is compliant with the Constitution."
Former Vermont governor and DNC Chair Howard Dean, a physician, joined the two attorneys to add his analysis, which involved the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.
"I actually think Bob Mueller is going to have a lot to say about this," Dean predicted.
Dean suggested that Mueller was investigating possible money laundering conducted by foreigners conducted through Trump real estate transactions.
"If that's a case, that's clearly an emolument: he got some money, the Russians got some money, it was illegal, I think Mueller's going to find out all that stuff," Dean suggested. "So this case is not going to go away based on what this particular judge decides. It's going to come back again and again and again."