Two groups sue Trump over unconstitutional business dealings
Double emoluments whanmmy! In New York:
A team of prominent constitutional scholars, Supreme Court litigators and former White House ethics lawyers intends to file a lawsuit Monday morning alleging that President Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his hotels and other business operations to accept payments from foreign governments.
The lawsuit is among a barrage of legal actions against the Trump administration that have been initiated or are being planned by major liberal advocacy organizations. Such suits are among the few outlets they have to challenge the administration now that Republicans are in control of the government.
In the new case, the lawyers argue that a provision in the Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause bans payments from foreign powers like the ones to Mr. Trump’s companies. They cite fears among the framers of the Constitution that United States officials could be corrupted by gifts or payments.
The suit, which will not seek any monetary damages, will ask a federal court in New York to order Mr. Trump to stop taking payments from foreign government entities. Such payments, it says, include those from patrons at Trump hotels and golf courses; loans for his office buildings from certain banks controlled by foreign governments; and leases with tenants like the Abu Dhabi tourism office, a government enterprise.
“The framers of the Constitution were students of history,” said Deepak Gupta, one of the lawyers behind the suit. “And they understood that one way a republic could fail is if foreign powers could corrupt our elected leaders.” …
The legal team filing the lawsuit includes Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard constitutional scholar; Norman L. Eisen, an Obama administration ethics lawyer; and Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. Among the others are Richard W. Painter, an ethics counsel in the administration of George W. Bush; Mr. Gupta, a Supreme Court litigator who has three cases pending before the court; and Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and former congressional candidate who has been studying and writing about the Emoluments Clause for nearly a decade.
Ms. Teachout said the one place of potential concern was a nation like China, which rents space at Trump Tower in New York and is a major lender to an office building in New York that Mr. Trump controls in part.
Foreign governments, Ms. Teachout and other ethics experts warn, could rent out rooms in Trump hotels as a way to send a message to the Trump family. “If you think other countries are not going to try to leverage relationships with Trump’s companies to influence trade or military policy, that is naïve,” she said.
A Washington-based nonprofit will file a federal lawsuit against President Trump on Monday, the start of his first week in office.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced Sunday night it is bringing a suit “to stop President Trump from violating the Constitution by illegally receiving payments from foreign governments.”
At issue is Trump’s refusal to divest from his business or place his assets into a blind trust, which would separate him entirely from his business empire. He has said his adult sons will run his business while he is in office, that they will not conduct any foreign deals and will subject any domestic deals to an ethics review.
“We did not want to get to this point. It was our hope that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said.
“He did not. His constitutional violations are immediate and serious, so we were forced to take legal action.”
The group says that because Trump has not divested from his businesses, he is “now getting cash and favors from foreign governments, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad.”
“President Trump has made his slogan ‘America First,’” Bookbinder added. “So you would think he would want to strictly follow the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, since it was written to ensure our government officials are thinking of Americans first, and not foreign governments.”