Democrats sue Trump over his busi­ness ties

Claim for­eign pay­ments vi­o­late emol­u­ments clause

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY STEPHEN DINAN

Nearly 200 con­gres­sional Democrats filed a law­suit Wed­nes­day morn­ing against Pres­i­dent Trump, say­ing his busi­ness in­ter­ests are likely vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion’s emol­u­ments clause by col­lect­ing money from for­eign gov­ern­ments with­out per­mis­sion from Capi­tol Hill.

Led by Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal of Con­necti­cut and Rep. John Cony­ers Jr. of Michi­gan, the law­suit asks a fed­eral judge to or­der Mr. Trump to come to Con­gress for ap­proval of his busi­ness ar­range­ments.

The law­suit ap­pears to be an at­tempt to force Mr. Trump to dis­close his busi­ness deal­ings to Con­gress af­ter the pres­i­dent has re­fused to re­lease his tax re­turns.

“De­fen­dant’s re­fusal to dis­close to Con­gress the for­eign emol­u­ments he wishes to ac­cept makes it im­pos­si­ble for Plain­tiffs to judge whether any spe­cific for­eign emol­u­ment should be ap­proved,” the Democrats say in their com­plaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

“De­fen­dant has there­fore de­nied Plain­tiffs the op­por­tu­nity to de­cide, on a case-by-case ba­sis, whether to au­tho­rize his ac­cep­tance of par­tic­u­lar emol­u­ments from for­eign states. The Con­sti­tu­tion ex­pressly de­mands that Plain­tiffs be given that op­por­tu­nity,” the law­suit claims.

The law­suit runs to 54 pages. The list of 30 sen­a­tors and 166 House mem­bers who joined the suit takes up 17 of those pages.

Mr. Trump re­fused to di­vest him­self of own­er­ship in the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion, a vast net­work of ho­tels, golf cour­ses and other prop­er­ties, when he took of­fice. He turned day-to-day oper­a­tions over to his chil­dren, and said he would do­nate any prof­its from for­eign gov­ern­ment pa­trons of his ho­tels to the fed­eral Trea­sury Depart­ment.

Some le­gal an­a­lysts have ques­tioned whether that’s suf­fi­cient.

In their law­suit, the Democrats list a num­ber of po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tions, in­clud­ing the Chi­nese gov­ern­ment’s grant­ing of trade­marks to Trump com­pa­nies, book­ings by diplo­mats at Trump-branded ho­tels and for­eign gov­ern­ment oper­a­tions that are ten­ants in Trump real es­tate in New York.

It’s un­clear how courts will treat the law­suit. Fed­eral judges of­ten have tossed com­plaints by mem­bers of Con­gress against the pres­i­dent, ar­gu­ing that po­lit­i­cal dis­putes should be fought in the po­lit­i­cal arena, not the court­house.

But a fed­eral judge in Wash­ing­ton has al­lowed a law­suit to pro­ceed against for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, filed by the U.S. House, over Oba­macare pay­ments his ad­min­is­tra­tion was mak­ing de­spite Con­gress re­fus­ing to ap­pro­pri­ate the money.

Mr. Cony­ers and Mr. Blu­men­thal were slated to hold a press con­fer­ence on their law­suit but can­celed it af­ter Wed­nes­day morn­ing’s at­tack on con­gres­sional Repub­li­cans prac­tic­ing for a base­ball game.

The at­tor­neys gen­eral for Mary­land and the District of Columbia filed their own emol­u­ments clause law­suit ear­lier this week, and a lib­eral in­ter­est group also filed a law­suit ear­lier this year.

Re­spond­ing to those ear­lier com­plaints, White House press sec­re­tary Sean Spicer ques­tioned the mo­tives of the crit­ics and said Mr. Trump’s busi­ness prac­tices are stan­dard for ad­min­is­tra­tions of both par­ties.

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