Trump is sued over foreign government payments to his firms

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A group of prominent constitutional and ethics lawyers sue U.S. President Donald Trump, accusing him of violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing his hotels and other businesses to accept payments from foreign governments.

WASHINGTON, D.C., UNITED STATES (RESTRICTED POOL) – A group of prominent constitutional and ethics lawyers sued U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday (January 23), accusing him of violating the U.S. Constitution by allowing his hotels and other businesses to accept payments from foreign governments.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington contended the Constitution’s “emoluments” clause forbids such payments and seeks to stop Trump from accepting them.

Trump said on Monday that the lawsuit was “totally without merit,” when asked by a reporter for his reaction to the filing during a signing ceremony of his first executive orders at the White House Oval Office.

Morgan Lewis & Bockius, a law firm representing the president on ethics matters, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The lawsuit is part of a wave of litigation expected from liberal advocacy groups against Trump, a Republican who took office on Friday.

Earlier this month Trump said he would maintain ownership of his global business empire but hand off control to his two oldest sons while president. Trump adviser Sheri Dillon, a partner at Morgan Lewis, said profits generated at Trump’s hotels by foreign governments will be donated to the U.S. Treasury.

The suit alleges that foreign governments’ payments for such things as leases at Trump Tower in New York, hotel stays at Trump’s properties and rights to rebroadcast or create their own versions of Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice” are illegal.

According to the complaint, the Constitution’s framers intended to ban such payments, believing that “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 plaintiff said it had standing to sue, having been “significantly injured” by being forced to expend resources on the lawsuit rather than elsewhere.

Among the lawyers who worked on the complaint are constitutional scholars Laurence Tribe and Erwin Chemerinsky, as well as Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer under Republican President George W. Bush.


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