Watchdog Amends Lawsuit Against Trump Citing Victims of His Conflicts of Interest
The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has added an amendment to a lawsuit they previously filed against Donald Trump for violating the US Constitution’s emoluments clause.
Back in January, CREW filed a lawsuit asserting that President Trump is in violation of the US Constitution because he has refused to divest from his business which takes payments and investments from foreign governments.
CREW stated that the “American people will have no way of knowing” whether the president is “thinking about the profits of Trump the businessman” when he “negotiates trade deals with [other] countries.”
In the revised complaint CREW argues that Trump may not accept financial benefit from the presidency, aside from his salary of $33,333 a month.
CREW cites the 38 trademarks that the Trump Organization recently received from the government of China after decades of being unable to do so.
Among the trademarks given to Trump are rights to businesses including:
• Massage parlors
• Golf clubs
• Escort services
• Real estate, insurance, finance corporations
In the amended complaint, CREW added to their plaintiff roster Jill Phaneuf, an event booker for the Carlyle and Glover Park hotels in DC; as well as Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, Inc., a consortium of restaurants and employees in the industry who have lost profits due to Trump’s branded businesses.
For example, because the Trump International Hotel in DC received a $32 million tax credit, offsetting 1/5th of the corporations cost of renovating the building, CREW alleges that the president has already benefitted financially from his current position.
Furthermore, it was widely reported that the Trump Organization has pressured foreign diplomats to stay there when in town conducting official business.
For example, Kuwaiti nationals suddenly moved their National Day celebration from the Four Seasons to the new Trump International Hotel in DC after they were “encouraged” to do so by “members of the Trump Organization” who contacted “the Ambassador of Kuwait” and asked him to “move his event to Trump’s DC hotel.”
Stephen Schooner, professor of government procurement law at George Washington University Law School, and Daniel Gordon, senior advisor to that same program wrote in an op-ed piece that the General Services Administration (GSA) explicitly states: “No … elected official of the Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom…”
The emoluments clause in the Constitution prohibits the president from receiving “gifts” from foreign governments without the approval of the Congress.
It states: “…no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Sheri Dillon, Trump’s attorney, claims that “the constitutional provision does not apply to fair-market payments, such as a standard hotel room bill, and is intended only to prevent federal officials from accepting a special consideration or gift from a foreign power.”
Dillon said at a press conference earlier this month: “No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument.”
However, there were hotels open at the time of the creation of the Constitution; as well as foreign representatives traveling from country to country staying in those hotels. The current conflict Trump faces would have been the same as any of the founding fathers faced over 240 years ago.