A new lawsuit to be filed by 200 congressional Democrats charges that President Donald Trump has been violating the United States Constitution since taking office by accepting financial benefits from foreign governments.
The emoluments clause of the constitution prohibits presidents from receiving such favors without prior approval from Congress in order to prevent foreign governments from bribing the U.S. president.
According to the Associated Press, here is a list of foreign government favors received by Trump as specified in the lawsuit:
- Chinese government trademarks for Trump companies,
- payments for hotel room stays and event space rentals by representatives of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and
- proceeds from Chinese or Emirati-linked government purchases of office space in Trump Tower.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat who is leading the lawsuit, had this to say about what he and other Democrats are doing:
“This argument on Thursday will essentially put to the test the proposition that no one is above the law, not even the president. He’s thumbed his nose at the plain text and in doing so he’s thumbed his nose at the American people.”
Experts say the emoluments clause was added to the constitution to make sure that all government officials act with the interests of the American public in mind. During our history this rule has been consistently applied to every level of government official, and has never had a court challenge because it is so clear.
From day one of his presidency Trump has been in violation of this rule since he chose not to divest from his assets which is what all prior presidents have done. He is still owner and beneficiary of his company, the Trump Organization, which has vast holdings not only in the U.S. but throughout the world. It consists of 550 entities in more than 20 countries with a large number of hotels, golf courses, resorts, office buildings, apartment buildings and licensing deals.
The new lawsuit is different from Trump’s other emoluments clause lawsuits in that plaintiffs are members of Congress. Blumenthal and other members believe that Congress has a right and a duty to get involved in violations of the emoluments clause.
Especially egregious have been the $6.5 million condo purchase by the Qatari government and a Chinese-government owned company’s investment in an Indonesian project that will include a Trump-branded hotel and golf course.
“These members of Congress are injured every time the president accepts a foreign government benefit, whether that benefit is a trademark from China or proceeds from a government buying space in a Trump property,” said Brianne Gorod, the lawyer who will argue the plaintiffs’ case Thursday.
According to the AP, two dozen former national security officials, including Madeleine Albright and Chuck Hagel, submitted supporting statements saying that “allowing private business deals with foreign governments to go undisclosed, unapproved, and unmonitored creates substantial danger that national security or foreign policy decisions (could) be motivated by something other than the public’s interest.”
Blumenthal said he expects the judge to allow the case to move forward. “The enforcement of the emoluments clause is the only way we can preserve our ability to do our job,” Blumenthal said. “If Congress does not have standing, no one does.”
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.