Caribbean Roots Congressmembers Among Nearly 200 Others Suing Donald Trump

The lone two Caribbean-roots Democratic lawmakers in the US Congress are among some 200 others suing President Donald Trump.

Caribbean-roots US Senator Kamala Harris and Caribbean-American Congressmember Yvette Clarke have both signed on to the unprecedented lawsuit, filed against President Trump Wednesday.

The lawsuit alleges that Trump is violating the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign governments through his businesses while he is the sitting president.

“I am proud to have joined this lawsuit as a plaintiff. We need to emphasize PUBLIC service, not private gain,” Congresswoman Clarke tweeted Wednesday afternoon.

This previously obscure section of the Constitution is one of the federal government’s chief protections against foreign bribes and international corruption.

The constitution’s framers, concerned about foreign influence on the fledgling American nation, enacted it to silo the president off from conflicts of interest, real or perceived: specifically, it prohibits the U.S. president from receiving “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever” from a foreign government or its dignitaries without the express consent of Congress.

Trump, however, has maintained as president his ownership of his eponymous real estate empire –  an ideal entity for foreign governments to funnel money into Trump’s pocket by patronizing his hotels and properties.

The plaintiffs include 30 Senators and 166 members of the House of Representatives  and the case will be lead by the non-profit organization, Constitutional Accountability Center. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut led the effort with Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.

“The founders ensured that federal officeholders would not decide for themselves whether particular emoluments were likely to compromise their own independence or lead them to put personal interest over national interest,” the lawsuit states. “An officeholder, in short, should not be the sole judge of his own integrity.”

It is the third such lawsuit against Trump on the issue since he became president, part of a coordinated effort by the president’s critics to force him to reveal his business entanglements and either sell off his holdings or put them in a blind trust.

Earlier this year, private individuals who own hotels or restaurants or book events at hotels that they say compete with Mr. Trump’s joined a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a nonprofit watchdog group.

On Monday, the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia filed suit in federal court in Maryland, accusing Mr. Trump of putting hotels, resorts and convention centers owned or operated by their governments at a competitive disadvantage.

In a response to the initial lawsuit, Justice Department lawyers argued that the framers of the Constitution never intended to prevent a president from owning a business or to ban ordinary, arms-length commercial transactions. They also contended that even if the president had violated the Constitution as his opponents allege, it is up to Congress to take action, not a federal court.