Conflict of Interest: Nearly 200 Democrats Sue Trump Over Business Deals

By Michele Gorman

Almost 200 congressional Democrats filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump Wednesday, alleging he is breaking the law by refusing to give up ownership of his businesses.

With 30 Democratic senators and 166 representatives, the document reportedly has the greatest number of congressional plaintiffs of any lawsuit against a president in U.S. history. They allege Trump has been receiving foreign profits in violation of the U.S. Constitution without going to Congress to get its consent.

More specifically, they claim Trump continues to violate the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which was designed to ensure that U.S. federal officeholders, including the president, wouldn’t be corrupted by foreign influence or put their own financial interests over the national interest. Through that measure, the Democrats say, the founding fathers invested members of Congress with the role of preventing corruption and foreign influence.

The legislators called for a transparent process, required by the Constitution. They want the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to force the president to comply with the Constitution.

“We have come to the courts to enforce the Constitution, because the president has been thumbing his nose at it,” said Elizabeth Wydra, of the Constitutional Accountability Center, in a video message. The D.C.-based think tank, which is “dedicated to fulfilling the progressive promise of our Constitution’s text and history,” according to its website, is representing the 196 Democrats in their lawsuit.

Trump promised to put up a blockade between his administration and his business, and earlier this year put his two adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr., in charge of the Trump Organization. It’s a family-owned business that includes a real-estate empire of golf courses, hotels and office buildings, and halted foreign deals.

But the lawmakers this week say Trump has been receiving valuable trademarks from foreign governments and billions of dollars from foreign governments leasing space in his properties. They also point to diplomats staying in his hotels, including when a lobbying firm working for Saudi Arabia earlier this year paid for rooms at Trump International Hotel—as reported by Politico—and when the Embassy of Kuwait held its National Day Celebration at the D.C. hotel—as seen in Reuters.

Just days before the general election, Trump took time off from campaigning on the trail to preside over a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., and, in turn, promote his brand.

Democrats postponed a press conference on the lawsuit Wednesday after a congressional baseball shooting in Alexandria, Virginia, which left House Majority Whip Steve Scalise among the victims. They said they would reschedule the news event for next week, though they have not yet announced the date.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is leading the effort in the upper chamber, while Representative John Conyers of Michigan spearheads it in the House.

Earlier this month, Politico reported on the Democrats’ expected lawsuit, which followed months of threats from the lawmakers that Trump continues to violate the Constitution because he hasn’t sold his companies or placed them in a blind trust.

The lawsuit came just two day after the attorneys general in Maryland and D.C. filed a similar legal challenge to force Trump to sell off his interests in golf courses, hotels, office buildings and other properties. And five months ago, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit watchdog, sued the president in the U.S. District Court of Manhattan for a similar emoluments case. Trump has dismissed that allegation as “without merit.”

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