All four Democratic members of Colorado’s delegation join emoluments lawsuit against Trump

By Ernest Luning

Every Democratic member of Congress from Colorado has signed on to a federal lawsuit charging President Donald Trump with accepting “emoluments,” or benefits, from foreign states without obtaining the approval of Congress, in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Jared Polis and Ed Perlmutter are among the 196 lawmakers — all Democrats — who had joined the lawsuit by late Tuesday night, according to a copy of the 37-page filing posted online by the firm handling the lawsuit, the Constitutional Accountability Center. It’s the most members of Congress ever to have sued the president in the same legal action, organizers said.

The lead plaintiffs in the lawsuit, Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Michigan Rep. John Conyers, argue that lawmakers have standing to challenge the president because Congress is required to grant approval before the president or other government employees accept gifts or payments from foreign countries.

It’s the second lawsuit filed this week alleging Trump is enriching himself contrary to constitutional mandates. On Monday, the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia sued the president over payments by foreign governments to his Trump International Hotel in the nation’s capital. Other groups, including an ethics organization and a restaurant association, have also sued the president on similar grounds.

“[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State,” reads the Constitution’s so-called “foreign emoluments” clause. The clause, the lawsuit argues, “invested members of Congress with an important role in preventing the corruption and foreign influence that the Founders sought to avoid.”

When he took office, Trump turned over control of his business empire to his two adult sons and a business executive but didn’t divest his holdings or place them into a blind trust, as some legal and ethics experts advised was necessary to avoid running afoul of the Constitution.

In a legal filing responding to another lawsuit, the Justice Department argued that the clause was never intended to apply to transactions for goods and services in the open market, such as bookings at Trump’s hotels or real estate transactions.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday he believed “partisan politics” was motivating the lawsuit filed by the attorneys general, both Democrats, and rejected claims Trump was unconstitutionally profiting from his office.

The lawsuit lays out numerous instances since Trump’s inauguration when foreign governments have given valuable considerations to Trump’s businesses, including granting a range of Chinese trademarks and accelerating a real estate development deal in Argentina.

“As (Trump) makes countless other foreign policy decisions, he may similarly be influenced by how those decisions will affect his business pursuits,” the plaintiffs argue. “And because (Trump) is not coming to Congress and identifying the emoluments he wishes to accept, the American people will have no way of knowing whether his actions as President reflect only his beliefs about what is best for the country, or whether they are partly motivated by personal financial considerations.”

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday night, Blumenthal said he had only asked Democrats to join the lawsuit before it was filed but would invite Republican lawmakers to add their names as plaintiffs on Wednesday. He also said the plaintiffs would share the legal costs involved in the complaint.