Not all state Democrats join Trump law­suit

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - PHIL WILLON phil.willon@la­times.com

SACRAMENTO — Nearly 200 Democrats in Con­gress filed a fed­eral law­suit Wed­nes­day al­leg­ing that Pres­i­dent Trump has il­le­gally prof­ited from for­eign pay­ments to his world­wide busi­ness in­ter­ests. But the list of plain­tiffs was miss­ing a few no­table names.

Sen. Dianne Fe­in­stein and four other Democrats in Cal­i­for­nia’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion, in­clud­ing some rep­re­sen­ta­tives of dis­tricts with a strong Repub­li­can or evenly di­vided elec­torate, did not sign on to the suit.

Fe­in­stein, who ap­pears likely to run for re­elec­tion in 2018, has taken heat in re­cent months from lib­eral ac­tivists who have crit­i­cized her for not tak­ing a more ag­gres­sive stance against Trump.

Her spokesman, Tom Mentzer, said she stayed away from the suit be­cause she is the lead Demo­crat on one of the Se­nate com­mit­tees in­ves­ti­gat­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“As the lead Demo­crat on one of the two Se­nate com­mit­tees in­ves­ti­gat­ing the pres­i­dent, Sen. Fe­in­stein de­cided join­ing the law­suit at this time may cre­ate an ap­pear­ance of bias,” Mentzer said. “The se­na­tor will con­tinue to be a vo­cal op­po­nent of the pres­i­dent’s il­le­gal ac­cep­tance of for­eign pay­ments and ben­e­fits.”

That did not keep Fe­in­stein’s fel­low Demo­crat and Cal­i­for­nia’s ju­nior se­na­tor, Ka­mala Har­ris, from join­ing the law­suit. Like Fe­in­stein, Har­ris sits on the Se­nate Select Com­mit­tee on In­tel­li­gence, one of the pan­els in­ves­ti­gat­ing the al­le­ga­tions about the Trump cam­paign and Rus­sia. Har­ris has not re­sponded to a re­quest for com­ment.

The law­suit al­leges Trump has vi­o­lated the emol­u­ments clause of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which for­bids fed­eral of­fi­cials from ac­cept­ing pay­ments from for­eign gov­ern­ments with­out the con­sent of Con­gress.

As an ex­am­ple, the suit points to the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel Wash­ing­ton, which it al­leges has been ac­tively court­ing for­eign diplo­mats since Trump’s elec­tion in Novem­ber.

The suit also al­leges that Trump, through his busi­ness em­pire, has ben­e­fited fi­nan­cially from dozens of trade­marks is­sued by the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment since he was sworn into of­fice.

The le­gal ac­tion comes just two days af­ter the at­tor­neys gen­eral for Mary­land and the District of Columbia filed an anti-cor­rup­tion law­suit against Trump on sim­i­lar grounds.

The White House has de­nied that Trump’s busi­ness in­ter­ests vi­o­late the Con­sti­tu­tion.

The Cal­i­for­nia Democrats in the House who did not sign on to the law­suit are Ami Bera of Elk Grove, Jim Costa of Fresno, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert and Lou Cor­rea of Santa Ana.

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