An American watchdog group has sued President Trump, alleging that he is violating the Constitution by accepting payments from foreign governments through his business empire.
The lawsuit by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) cites the Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits federal office holders from accepting any “present, emolument, office or title” from a foreign state.
The group claims that the clause prohibits Trump’s business empire from accepting anything of value from a foreign government, including payments at his Washington hotel, without congressional consent.
“The Constitution provides for no such exception or remedy to this clause,” said the suit.
The suit, filed in federal court in New York, seeks attorney fees but no damages. It asks that the federal court find that Trump is violating the Constitution through his business interests.
Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration and vice chairman of CREW says the issue is beyond politics.
“I want to make it clear, there’s nothing liberal about this. There are millions of Americans like myself sick and tired of big government and the concentration of wealth among a very few people who want to control our government and take away jobs from ordinary Americans,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.”
“We’re not for big government and government spending and the rest of it. Millions of conservatives are sick and tired of corruption, and there’s nothing liberal or conservative about this.”
The lawyers attached to the case include CREW board chairman Norman Eisen, an ethics lawyer for President Obama, and vice-chairman Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush.
At a press conference earlier this month, Trump promised to turn hotel profits from foreign governments over to the United States Treasury, but the group via the suit maintains that the step in no way solves the constitutional violation.
At Trump’s press conference, last week, Sheri Dillon, a lawyer for Trump, dismissed concerns that accepting hotel business from foreign governments would violate the Foreign Emoluments Clause.
“No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument,” she said.
“Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present and it has nothing to do with an office. It’s not an emolument,” she added.
On Sunday, she declined comment on the pending lawsuit against the president.