A group of attorneys on Monday in New York filed a lawsuit against US President Donald Trump accusing him of violating the Constitution by receiving money from foreign governments for their diplomats’ stays at his hotels or for leasing office space in buildings he owns. The lawsuit was filed by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington in the Southern District of New York because a large number of Trump’s real estate holdings are located there, EFE news reported.
According to the plaintiffs, Trump’s properties have created “countless” conflicts of interest and constitute a “serious threat” to the United States. “As the Framers were aware, private financial interests can subtly sway even the most virtuous leaders … and entanglements between American officials and foreign powers could pose a creeping, insidious threat to the Republic,” the lawsuit states. The suit contends that Trump is violating a constitutional clause prohibiting public officials from receiving emoluments from foreign governments and asks the court to issue a ruling on the matter.
The specific clause has been disputed by legal experts.
Trump and his team have insisted that the President has turned over management of his businesses to his two adult sons, but not the properties themselves, and they claim that he is not legally obligated to divest himself of those properties, a situation that also affects a number of his Cabinet picks.
The plaintiffs contend that the clause covers income from renting office space in Trump Tower to a Chinese government bank and the Abu Dhabi tourism office, EFE news added. In addition, foreign diplomats have stayed at Trump’s newly opened Washington hotel near the White House and the lawsuit specifically mentions his receipt of “payments from foreign-government-owned broadcasters related to rebroadcasts and foreign versions of the television programme “The Apprentice” and its spin-offs.”
Trump has promised to donate any profits his companies make from foreign governments using his hotels to the US Treasury. The lawsuit’s plaintiffs — along with other legal experts and consultants — have insisted that Trump must sell his assets and place the proceeds in a blind trust, just as other recent Presidents have done.
Trump, meanwhile, on Monday said the lawsuit is “totally without merit.”