Federal court schedules arguments in Trump foreign businesses lawsuit

By Josh Delk

A U.S. Federal District Court has scheduled oral arguments for October in a lawsuit against President Trump alleging that he has violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution with his family businesses, according to court documents released Wednesday.

The memorandum filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York says that Trump “has wasted no time continuing and even expanding his financial entanglements with foreign and domestic governments since taking office. As a result, he has received (and will continue to receive) ‘presents’ and ’emoluments’ prohibited by the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses.”

The case includes four plaintiffs who all claim that the president has violated the Emoluments Clause, which aims to prevent presidents from profiting as a result of their elected position. Trump’s restaurants and hotels, they claim, have benefited unfairly by doing businesses with foreign governments.

Arguments will take place addressing Trump’s motion to dismiss the case on Oct. 18 at 10:30 a.m.

Trump and the White House have both dismissed this suit and others, saying that he has not violated the clause because he handed over management of his family’s companies to his children and handed over ownership of his personal trust.

The Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (ROC), an association of restaurant workers that advocates for better restaurant working conditions, was the first group to join the lawsuit filed by nonprofit government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) in January.

CREW said it was filing the suit “to stop President Trump from violating the Constitution by illegally receiving payments from foreign governments.”

ROC’s co-director Saru Jayaraman said that Trump’s businesses would directly impact the 25,000 workers and 200 restaurant owners her group represents, claiming that Trump’s position gives his businesses an unfair advantage over its competitors. 

“It’s not a free market, or a free country when foreign governments feel like they have to eat and patronize Trump hotels and restaurants because he’s the president of the United States. I mean, that’s why the emoluments clause was written,” she said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) partnered with the Constitutional Accountability Center to file another lawsuit against the president in June for violating the clause, and he has over 30 Democratic senators and 100 Democratic members of the House as co-plaintiffs.

Jill Phaneuf, who works to book receptions and events for a company that represents Washington, D.C., hotels, was the second person to join CREW’s lawsuit. She told NPR that her joining the suit “isn’t about politics” and said “I believe nothing is more important than our constitutional protections. I joined this lawsuit because the president is taking business away from me and others with unfair business practices that violate the Constitution.”

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