Trump foreign payments: Democrats in Congress file lawsuit

Almost 200 Democratic members of Congress have filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, alleging that he violated the Constitution by not dispelling his ties to the Trump Organization and failing to request permission from Congress to accept foreign gifts and benefits.

The lawsuit, which is expected to be filed in federal district, would add to the president's legal woes.

NORTHAM: The lawsuit also contends Trump's businesses are drawing away customers from hotels, convention centers and the like in Maryland and D.C. White House Spokesman Sean Spicer batted away the lawsuit by two Democratic attorneys general as partisan politics.

While legal experts have said the plaintiffs in the prior lawsuits may have difficulty establishing that they have sufficient legal basis to sue, Blumenthal said members of Congress have standing due to their Constitutional duty to consider emoluments matters. Just days after Trump's inauguration in January, the government watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a federal lawsuit in the Southern District of NY.

"The Constitution clearly states that no elected official - including the President - may receive gifts, payments, or benefits from foreign governments without disclosing them to Congress and seeking our consent", Senator Blumenthal said.

The complaint said that Trump had not sought congressional approval for any of the payments that his hundreds of businesses had received from foreign governments since he took office in January.

Mr. Trump and the Justice Department have called these lawsuits baseless.

The litigation is distinct from an action brought earlier this year by a nonprofit watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which also alleges that Trump has violated the emoluments clause.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday.

One thing the Blumenthal-led effort may accomplish is the release of Trump's tax returns.

Congress directed Van Buren to deposit the items with the State Department, the complaint said, and to sell any items that could not "conveniently be deposited or kept" there and give the proceeds to the U.S. Treasury. They said the suit involves so-called emolument clauses of the Constitution — little-known anti-corruption provisions meant to shield the president from outside influence.

"We have standing that no one else has" because "the consent of Congress is absolutely essential", Blumenthal said. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe - four of our first five presidents - all had businesses that exported goods. Before taking office, Trump placed his interests in a trust and turned business operations to his sons.

"Although Defendant Donald J. Trump has accepted the privilege of occupying the highest office in the land, he is not obeying the same rules as the federal officers and employees described above or following the example of compliance set by former presidents", according to the lawsuit. But members of Congress say they would have standing, since the Emoluments Clause specifically cites the legislature as having to give permission for such payments.

  • Leroy Wright