Donald Trump has ignored the law of the land in regard to his business holdings and conflicts of Interests and has been sued by the watch dog organization Citizens for Responsibility in Ethics in Washington (CREW). A complaint was filed on Jan. 23, 2016 in US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The complaint accuses the president of being in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause. The Emoluments Clause in the Constitution is meant to prevent the president, and other elected officials, from receiving anything of value from a foreign government without the approval of Congress. Trump has brazenly disregarded the Constitution in this regard, a watchdog group suing him has claimed.
Noah Bookbinder, CREW Executive Director and a former federal corruption prosecutor, said: “We always encourage officials to do the right thing. We did not want to get to this point. It was our hope that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office. He did not. His constitutional violations are immediate and serious, so we were forced to take legal action.”
The Emoluments Clause states that “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And 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.”
Zephyr Teachout, Associate Law Professor at Fordham Law School has said, “The framers of our constitution did everything they could to protect against corruption, especially foreign corruption. President Trump’s insistence on taking payments from foreign governments is a blatant violation of a foundational clause in our constitution, and a foundational principle of our country.”
The Heart of the Complaint
The complaint states: ‘”Never before have the people of the United States elected a President with business interests as vast, complicated, and secret as those of Donald J. Trump. Now that he has been sworn into office as the 45th President of the United States, those business interests are creating countless conflicts of interest, as well as unprecedented influence by foreign governments, and have resulted and will further result in numerous violations of Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, the “Foreign Emoluments Clause.”’
By accept gifts or making profits from foreign governments, the complaint states that Trump is making the country vulnerable to improper influence from foreign governments, which in turn may cause his decisions to be clouded or biased toward certain foreign powers.
The complaint additionally states the “Defendant (Trump), however, has repeatedly stated the misguided refrain that “the President can’t have a conflict of interest,” and his attorney, just nine days before his inauguration, stated that “the so-called Emoluments Clause has never been interpreted . . . to apply to fair value exchanges that have absolutely nothing to do with an office holder” and that the “Constitution does not require President-elect Trump to do anything here.”
Trump’s Business Empire
It goes on to say Trump’s attorneys have no legal precedent to insist their client has done nothing illegal, but the complaint goes on to list those illegal activities, as well as the magnitude of his business empire.
Those illegal activities and violations include: ‘“leases held by foreign-government-owned entities in New York’s Trump Tower; room reservations and the use of venues and other services and goods by foreign governments and diplomats at Defendant’s Washington, D.C. hotel; hotel stays, property leases, and other business transactions tied to foreign governments at other domestic and international establishments owned, operated, or licensed by Defendant; payments from foreign-government-owned broadcasters related to rebroadcasts and foreign versions of the television program “The Apprentice” and its spinoffs; and property interests or other business dealings tied to foreign governments in numerous other countries.
His business empire is made up of hundreds of different corporations, limited-liability companies, limited partnerships, and other entities that he owns or controls, in whole or in part, operating in the United States and 20 or more foreign countries.10 Defendant’s businesses are loosely organized under an umbrella known as the “Trump Organization…Defendant also has several licensing agreements that provide streams of income that continue over time.”’
The complaint states that without a declaratory relief and an injunction by the court, Trump will continue to be in violation of the Constitution, which he has sworn to uphold.
Trump has refused to release his tax returns, which would show exactly how vast his business dealings are. He has told the public he is turning over his organization to his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., but that does not include a blind trust or the consent of Congress.
The president has refused to follow the tradition and law that past presidents followed for the last 40 years, since the Watergate Scandal.
The complaint also states that “According to media reports, since the November 8, 2016 election, foreign diplomats have been flocking to Defendant’s D.C. hotel, eager to curry favor with Defendant and afraid of what Defendant may think or do if they send their business elsewhere in Washington.”
“One “Middle Eastern diplomat” told The Washington Post about the hotel: “Believe me, all the delegations will go there,” and “An “Asian diplomat explained: ‘“Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’”
Other Injuries from Trump’s Actions
The complaint states the following injuries will occur from Trump’s actions: “Beyond the injuries described above that CREW would have suffered even if it had not filed this case, Defendant’s unconstitutional conduct has caused added financial costs and greater logistical difficulties with respect to informing—and helping to protect from corrupt and unethical manipulation—innocent and unaware third parties, including consumers, workers, and small businesses. As the Executive Branch, led by Defendant, shapes the strategy, substance, and timing of its trade and other commercial and financial negotiations with foreign governments, these third parties are at risk of having their economic interests and financial welfare bartered away, with Defendant rewarding foreign governments in connection with his own business interests.”
Finally, the complaint goes on to explain his business dealings, including money he owes. Those countries include: China, India, United Arab Emirates, Indonesia, Turkey, Scotland, Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan.