The prominent ethics lawyer leading a lawsuit against President Trump for his violation of the “emoluments” clause of the U.S. Constitution believes he will be able to see the president’s financial records. This would be a major new legal headache for the president. The lawsuit concerns Trump’s ownership of a Washington hotel.
The lawyer is Norm Eisen who heads up the Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), which has been a thorn in the president’s side. Eisen said Saturday he is “confident” that the federal judge involved in the emoluments case will require the Trump Organization to begin turning over evidence about the hotel’s internal operations.
Without this evidence, there can be no lawsuit. But if the judge requires it, then Trump and his lawyers must comply. This would be a huge new development and for the first time the public would be able to see details about the president’s finances.
The lawsuit charges that the president, who is profiting from foreign governments doing business with Trump International Hotel, is in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
“I do believe there is going to be accountability for this,” said Eisen, in an interview with Yahoo News. “This is the first time in American history that a president has been brazen enough to take emoluments.”
Although Trump has completely ignored the restrictions of the emoluments clause it is very important because in effect prohibits presidents from taking bribes from foreign governments.
Trump may think he is above the law, but the judge in Eisen’s case may see things differently.
Eisen is the chief counsel in a lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia. Before starting CREW he was the special counsel for ethics and government reform under President Obama.
Maryland and the District of Columbia have been under pressure from private hotel and resort interests who have been complaining that the president has been coercing foreign governments to spend money at his facilities instead of theirs, and this is causing them great financial harm.
Lawyers for the president recently asked U.S. Judge Peter Messitte, who is presiding in the emoluments case, to throw out the lawsuit, saying that the president can’t be sued in his personal OR official capacity while he is in office.
But Messitte has already allowed the case to proceed, which has given the plaintiffs a great deal of optimism. Eisen said he expects another favorable ruling for his side after a hearing in the case over the scope of the Emoluments Clause slated for June 11. “We are confident the judge is going to allow us to take discovery,” he said in the Yahoo interview.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.