US ethics group files lawsuit claiming Trump’s businesses violate Constitution

US ethics group files lawsuit claiming Trump’s businesses violate Constitution

The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] Monday claiming President Donald Trump’s continued business dealings violate the Emoluments Clause [text] of the US Constitution. In a press release [text] announcing the lawsuit, Laurence Tribe [official profile], a Harvard Law professor and member of CREW, said the purpose of the lawsuit is to get a federal judge to order Trump to sever his ties with various businesses, including his many hotels, which receive money from “foreign powers.”

I am enormously proud to be filing this lawsuit to stop President Trump from putting his continuing pursuit of personal wealth, and his willingness to serve the foreign interests that feed that wealth, ahead of the interests and needs of American citizens and watchdog organizations like CREW. It is already clear that nothing short of judicial force will end Trump’s flagrant disregard of the core barrier the Constitution’s Framers erected against presidential decisions driven by personal greed or by loyalty purchased from the President by the patronage of foreign powers.

CREW vice chair Norman Eisen, who was an ethics lawyer for the previous two presidential administrations, said the lawsuit is also an attempt to obtain Trump’s tax returns. “Seventy-five percent of Americans want to see the President’s tax returns and so do we,” Eisen said. “We will seek those in discovery in this case in order to establish the details of the emoluments clause violations here.” A New York Times article [NYT report] about the suit addresses concerns by some legal experts that the group could have difficulty proving that they have standing to sue.

A number of bi-partisan experts have expressed concerns over potential ethical issues being faced by Trump. Two government ethics lawyers [WP report] who counseled both presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have voiced concerns over Trump’s refusal to disclose his tax returns which, they argue, leads to an inability to ensure the actions of the new administration will be conflict-free. Concerns have also been voiced over the more than 4,000 open lawsuits [USA Today report] involving Trump and his businesses. Numerous US senators have also voiced concerns over Trump’s Cabinet nominees [WP report], including reports that some nominees have failed to pay federal and state taxes, a factor which has caused nominees of previous administrations to withdraw their nomination.