32 California Democrats Join Congressional Lawsuit Against Trump

By Scott Shafer

Thirty-one Democrats from California’s delegation to the House of Representatives and Sen. Kamala Harris joined a lawsuit filed Wednesday against President Trump by nearly 200 members of Congress.

The suit alleges that Trump is violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution by accepting payments from foreign entities without approval from Congress.

The lawsuit also alleges that Trump’s international business empire essentially entices foreign governments to send payments Trump’s way by, for example, putting up foreign delegations visiting Washington, D.C., at Trump’s hotel there.

Plaintiffs also cite instances where the Chinese government granted valuable registered trademarks to Trump-branded spas, massage services and other businesses.

It’s not unprecedented for members of Congress to sue a sitting president. For example, House Republicans sued President Barack Obama over the Affordable Care Act and Obama’s use of executive orders. But this is the highest number of members to join in a lawsuit against a sitting president.

The suit against Trump was filed Wednesday in federal district court in Washington, D.C. The lead plaintiff in the Senate was Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), while Michigan Democrat John Conyers Jr. led the effort in the House.

“Trump has conflicts of interest in at least 25 countries, and it appears he’s using his presidency to maximize his profits,” Conyers told Reuters Wednesday.

Conspicuously missing from the long list of plaintiffs was California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein. At a town hall meeting in San Francisco earlier this year, Feinstein mentioned the efforts of Sen. Blumenthal to take up a financial collection among Democrats willing to pay for the legal action.

Feinstein’s office did not respond to questions from KQED Monday about the status of the lawsuit, two days before it was filed.

In an email to KQED from her office Wednesday morning, the senator’s spokesman, Tom Mentzer, said: “As lead Democrat on one of the two Senate committees investigating the president, Senator Feinstein decided joining the lawsuit at this time may create an appearance of bias and undermine the integrity of the investigation. The senator will continue to be a vocal opponent of the president’s illegal acceptance of foreign payments and benefits.”

Sen. Harris, who joined the lawsuit, also serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee with Feinstein. Six other Democrats who serve with Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee, including Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin, who is the Democratic whip and the second-highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Feinstein is up for re-election next year and while she has indicated she will be a candidate, there have been grumblings on the left that the state’s senior senator has not opposed Trump’s agenda forcefully enough.

Eight other House Democrats from California were not listed as plaintiffs. They include Ami Bera, who narrowly won his election and re-elections, Jim Costa (Fresno), Tony Cardenas (San Fernando Valley), Norma Torres (Pomona), Raul Ruiz (Palm Desert), Nanette Barragan (Hermosa Beach), Lou Correa (Santa Ana) and the newly elected Jimmy Gomez from Los Angeles.