Democrats file lawsuit against Donald Trump over foreign payments

Frederick Owens
June 17, 2017

Trump's unique status as both president and the financial beneficiary of his global business empire raised questions about the emoluments clause of the Constitution even before he took office. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep.

Democratic attorneys general have taken a lead role in challenging Trump policies, successfully blocking executive orders restricting travel from some Muslim-majority countries.

Almost 200 Democrat members of Congress filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump today, alleging that he is violating the Constitution's foreign Emoluments Clause by accepting foreign payments without legislative consent. In May, a lobbying firm representing the government of Saudi Arabia disclosed it had paid more than $250,000 in lodging and catering fees to the hotel.

Trump is now facing emoluments clause claims on three fronts.

The clause says that "without the Consent of the Congress", the president can't accept benefits "of any kind whatever from any King, Prince, or foreign State".

Reuters reported that the lawmakers complained that #President Trump did not seek congressional endorsement for the payments his businesses received from foreign governments and agencies since he assumed office in January.

Those benefits violate the US Constitution's "emoluments clauses", which ban US officials from taking gifts or other benefits from foreign governments, the suit argues. The government's response to that lawsuit cited business activity with foreign countries by presidents going back to George Washington.

During a call with reporters, Blumenthal said Trump has "repeatedly and flagrantly violated" the Emoluments Clause.

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Trump's defenders have said he has gone well beyond what is legally or ethically required to distance himself from his companies, which are now being run by his two adult sons.

Jancek also says the American people elected Trump president, and that it's time Democrats "end their efforts to delegitimize his presidency".

The Justice Department has argued the plaintiffs in the CREW suit lack standing because they can't allege a specific harm caused by hotel revenue from foreign governments.

Attorneys general are typically elected officials, and Frosh speculated a desire to be re-elected would prevent Republicans from getting involved.

It gives several examples of former presidents who obeyed the rules of the clause, including Martin Van Buren, who in 1840 was offered two horses, a case of rose oil, five bottles of rose water, a package of cashmere shawls, a Persian rug, a box of pearls, and a sword by the Imam of Muscat.

"And we think that our case will also further develop the record and the law for the court, which obviously will ultimately be the final arbiter, a necessary cog in the check-and-balance wheel", Racine said. That, according to the president, removed any potential conflicts.

Some legal experts have suggested that the suit filed Monday in federal court in Maryland, accusing Trump of putting hotels, resorts and convention centers owned or operated by their governments at a competitive disadvantage may be the most likely to proceed because a state is considered a "coequal sovereign" of the president.

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