A government watchdog comprised of a group of left-leaning legal experts has filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, saying that the new chief executive is in violation of the clause of the Constitution that prohibits the acceptance of payments on behalf of the president from foreign governments.
The lawsuit was filed Monday by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in the Southern District of New York.
The lawsuit has targeted the new president’s business dealings, saying that the money President Trump has received from diplomats who patronize his hotels and the foreign governments that rent his office space is in violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
According to the lawsuit, the issue of foreign entities tainting American democracy stretches all the way back to the founding of the United States.
As the Framers were aware, private financial interests can subtly sway even the most virtuous leaders… and entanglements between American officials and foreign powers could pose a creeping insidious threat to the Republic.
The emoluments clause was put in place by the Founding Fathers in order to avoid corruption of foreign governments and leaders that could rot American democracy from the inside. (The word ’emolument’ derives from the Latin word emolumentum, which means profit.)
The president has been dismissive of the effort, calling the lawsuit “without merit, totally without merit.” His lawyer, Sheri Dillon, also dismissed its validity at a press conference earlier this month.
No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument.
The president reportedly has financial interests in around 20 countries, though the scope of his wealth and interests remains unclear.
The CREW crew
The legal effort is being led by two former presidential legal advisers: Norman Eisen, who served as an adviser to Barack Obama, and Richard Painter, who advised George W. Bush.
Noah Bookbinder, the group’s executive director, said in a statement that the legal actions were essential, given the circumstances.
We did not want to get to this point. It was our hope that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office… He did not. His constitutional violations are immediate and serious, so we were forced to take legal action.
According to CREW, the new president’s past and current business dealings with such countries as China, Indonesia, and India muddy Americans’ perceptions of where his priorities lay.
The president has signaled that he is not likely to take seriously the lawsuits currently being leveled against him. He has instead tried to show that his business dealings are entirely in keeping with legal and ethical standards.
On Monday, the president’s companies reportedly filed paperwork to demonstrate that people other than the president are now in control of his businesses. The entreaties, however, have been panned by legal experts as falling short of what is required.