Trump is sued over foreign government payments to his firms

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By Jonathan Stempel

<span class="articleLocation”>A group of prominent constitutional and ethics
lawyers sued President Donald Trump on Monday, accusing him of
violating the U.S. Constitution by letting his hotels and other
businesses accept payments from foreign governments.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan by the
nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
contended that Trump is “submerged in conflicts of interest”
because of ties with countries such as China, India and
potentially Russia.

It seeks to stop Trump from accepting any improper payments,
citing a constitutional provision known as the “emoluments”
clause that bans them.

A spokeswoman for Morgan Lewis & Bockius, a law firm
representing the president on ethics matters, said: “We do not
comment on our clients or the work we do for them.”

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

On Jan. 11, Trump said he would retain ownership of his
global business empire while president, but hand off day-to-day
control to his oldest sons, Eric and Donald Jr..

Sheri Dillon, a partner at Morgan Lewis and a Trump adviser,
at the time said profit generated at Trump’s hotels from foreign
governments would be donated to the U.S. Treasury.

But the plaintiff said Trump’s refusal to cede ownership or
set up a blind trust has resulted in conflicts of interest that
leave him “poised” to violate the Constitution repeatedly while
in the White House.

The emoluments clause forbids Trump and other U.S.
officeholders from accepting various gifts from foreign
governments without congressional approval.

According to the complaint, that means payments by foreign
governments for such things as leases at Trump Tower in New
York, stays at Trump’s hotels, rounds at Trump’s golf courses,
and the rights to rebroadcast or create their own versions of
Trump’s reality TV show “The Apprentice” are illegal.

The lawsuit said 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.”

China, India, Indonesia, Turkey and the United Kingdom are
among the countries with which Trump’s companies do or plan to
do business, and Trump had been trying to do business with
Russia for at least three decades, the complaint said.

The lawsuit also alleged that payments next month from a
Washington hotel booking by the Embassy of Kuwait for its “National Day” celebration “will go directly to defendant while
he is president.”

To justify its standing to sue, the plaintiff said it has
been “significantly injured” by having to divert resources to
the lawsuit, and field hundreds of media questions about Trump’s

Among the lawyers who worked on the complaint were
constitutional scholars Laurence Tribe, from Harvard University,
and Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California at
Irvine’s law school.

Others include Richard Painter, who was a White House ethics
lawyer under former Republican President George W. Bush.

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