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Congressional Democrats sue Trump to force emoluments disclosure

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

By Stephen Dinan

Nearly 200 congressional Democrats filed a lawsuit Wednesday morning against President Trump saying his business interests are likely violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by collecting money from foreign governments without permission from Capitol Hill.

Led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Rep. John Conyers Jr., the lawsuit asks a federal judge to order Mr. Trump to come to Congress for approval of his business arrangements.

The lawsuit appears to be an attempt to force Mr. Trump to disclose his business dealings to Congress, after the president has refused to release his tax returns.

“Defendant’s refusal to disclose to Congress the foreign emoluments he wishes to accept makes it impossible for Plaintiffs to judge whether any specific foreign emolument should be approved,” they say in their complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. “Defendant has therefore denied Plaintiffs the opportunity to decide, on a case-by-case basis, whether to authorize his acceptance of particular emoluments from foreign states. The Constitution expressly demands that Plaintiffs be given that opportunity.”

The lawsuit runs to 54 pages. The list of 30 senators and 166 House members who joined the suit took up 17 of those pages.

Mr. Trump refused to divest himself of ownership in the Trump Organization, a vast network of hotels, golf courses and other properties, when he took office. He turned day-to-day operations over to his children, and said he would donate any profits from foreign government patrons of his hotels to the federal Treasury Department.

Some legal analysts have questioned whether that’s sufficient.

In their lawsuit, the Democrats list a number of potential violations, including the Chinese government’s granting of trademarks to Trump companies; room bookings by diplomats at Trump branded hotels; and foreign government operations that are tenants in Trump real estate in New York.

It’s unclear how courts will treat the lawsuit. Federal judges have often tossed complaints by members of Congress against the president, arguing political disputes should be fought in the political arena, not the courthouse.

But a federal judge in Washington has allowed a lawsuit to proceed against President Obama, filed by the U.S. House, over Obamacare payments he was making despite Congress refusing to appropriate the money.