Congressional Democrats sue Trump over foreign payments

Violet Tucker
June 17, 2017

RACINE: President Trump is flagrantly violating the Constitution which explicitly bars presidents from receiving gifts or inducements from foreign or domestic government entities.

Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said almost 200 Democrats in Congress filed a lawsuit Wednesday against President Donald Trump over foreign payment violations.

"This case is about the right of hundreds of millions of Americans to honest government", Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said at a press conference announcing the lawsuit. Trump and his attorneys argue the clause does not cover fair-value transactions, such as hotel room payments and real estate sales. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, known as CREW, filed the first such lawsuit in January in federal court in NY.

Blumenthal, who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said it took "a lot of research" involving legal experts to determine who would have legal standing to successfully sue the president.

White House press secretary Sean Spicer noted that response at a White House press briefing Monday. This lawsuit today is just another iteration of the case that was filed by that group, CREW. The official called the suit politically motivated.

No Republicans have joined the lawsuit, but Blumenthal told the Washington Post that they are invited to. Yet, the Justice Department on Friday said those plaintiffs did not suffer in any way and there were no grounds for the suit.

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The attorneys general will seek an order in United States district court in Maryland preventing Trump from continuing to receive government payments beyond his salary.

"The framers wrote the emoluments clause and made it central to our constitution due to their fear that the country and its officials would become corrupted", Blumenthal told the Courant.

It's the latest shot at the Trump administration from Democrats on Capitol Hill, who on Tuesday pressed his Attorney General Jeff Sessions for information about his role in the probe into the Trump campaign's links to Russian Federation.

The suit says that despite billionaire Trump having placed his extensive business holdings in a trust after he was elected president, he still owns the properties and is well-aware of the money they are earning him. "I mean, I think if you talk to them privately, if you gave them Sodium Pentothal, they would say, 'This is a big deal'".

"As a result, they wrote the emoluments clause of the Constitution with language "both sweeping and unqualified,"' the lawmakers" lawsuit says". "We have standing that no one else has" because the Constitution makes it clear "the consent of Congress is absolutely essential", he said.

A number of accomplished lawyers and legal scholars are participating in the effort, including Laurence Tribe, the legendary Harvard Law School professor; Erwin Chemerinsky, incoming dean of the law school at the University of California, Berkeley; and Richard Painter, an ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush White House. After congressmen and the attorneys general, there is also an ongoing suit involving private individuals who compete with Trump's businesses. The government also said Trump hotel revenue does not fit the definition of an improper payment under the Constitution.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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