Maybe the busiest people in Washington are not the politicians, but the lawyers! The latest lawsuit announced in Washington comes from almost 200 Democratic leaders who have filed suit against President Donald Trump. They are alleging that he is violating the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign governments through his businesses while president.
The plaintiffs are 30 Senators and 166 members of the House of Representatives. Sources familiar with the suit say that more lawmakers could be joining an amended complaint later. The case is being led by a nonprofit called Constitutional Accountability Center.
This move shows the depth of frustration among the Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill. Since the Republicans control both the House and the Senate, they have refused to investigate the president’s business activities. Out of this frustration, they have now turned to the courts to attempt to force Trump to comply with the Constitution.
The main issue in this lawsuit is the emoluments clause in the Constitution. It is designed to protect the federal government against foreign bribes and international corruption. Those that framed the Constitution wanted to seal the president from any conflicts of interest, real or perceived. The emoluments clause prohibits the U.S. president from receiving “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever” from a foreign government or its dignitaries without the express consent of Congress.
President Trump has kept his ownership of his vast real estate empire. This has become a perfect way for foreign governments to funnel money to Trump through patronizing his properties. Trump’s new DC hotel as already hosted embassy events for Azerbaijan and Kuwait. They switched to the Trump property from their original booking at the Four Seasons. Since Trump came into office, a Saudi backed lobbying campaign has spent almost $300,000 at Trump’s hotel for both lodging and catering.
It’s not just Trump’s hotels that are at issue. The president also owns a golf course in Dubai and is planning on building a 2nd. Both will rely on the Dubai government for water, roads, liquor licenses and more. It would be easy for the Dubai government to give the Trump courses preference over any competition.
Trump’s response to criticism has been to show that he handed over day-to-day management of his businesses to his adult sons and then insisting that they wouldn’t discuss business with him. The Trump Organization has also stated that they will be donating the profits from foreign governments to the US treasury at the end of the year. But the conditions of his trust enable him to withdraw any profits at any time, and both his sons have said that they talk to their father frequently to give him reports on how the business is doing. Most Democrats believe that Trump’s solution on emoluments is not a solution at all. Some have said it is a sham.
So almost 200 Washington lawmakers now join the attorney generals of both Maryland and the District of Columbia and a nonprofit group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington with lawsuits against the president. They all focus on the Emoluments Clause.
What are your thoughts about these mounting legal moves against President Trump?