Ethics Experts To File Lawsuit Saying Trump's Overseas Interests Violate Constitution
A team of ethics experts and legal scholars is filing a lawsuit in federal court this morning that says President Donald Trump's overseas businesses violate the Constitution's emoluments clause, which bars presidents from taking money from foreign governments.
The group filing the suit says it will ask the court "to stop President Trump from violating the Constitution by illegally receiving payments from foreign governments" with ties to Trump interests.
"When Trump the president sits down to negotiate trade deals with these countries, the American people will have no way of knowing whether he will also be thinking about the profits of Trump the businessman," according to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is part of the suit.
The legal scholars and former White House ethics officials filing the lawsuit include Richard Painter, ethics adviser to President George W. Bush; Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe; Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine; and Supreme Court litigator Deepak Gupta.
Former Obama administration ethics adviser Norman Eisen told Morning Edition recently that Trump's business ties violate the emoluments clause in numerous ways:
"We need travel no further than a few blocks from the White House, the Trump Hotel. There's been controversy now about whether or not they're pressuring governments to leave other hotels in Washington and come to their hotel.
"Whether those allegations are proven or not, there can be no question that the Trump Hotel in D.C. is aggressively seeking business from foreign governments. Once Mr. Trump takes the oath of office, that will be a violation of the Constitution."
The emoluments clause hasn't been tested in court, and it remains to be seen how the lawsuit will be received. Trump's lawyers have already indicated they will oppose the suit.
As The New York Times noted:
"The president's lawyers have argued that the constitutional provision does not apply to fair-market payments, such as a standard hotel room bill, and is intended only to prevent federal officials from accepting a special consideration or gift from a foreign power."
"No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument," Trump lawyer Sheri A. Dillon told a news conference earlier this month.
"This is purely harassment for political gain, and, frankly, I find it very, very sad," Trump's son Eric told the Times.