A Washington-based nonprofit will file a federal lawsuit against President Trump on Monday, the start of his first week in office.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) announced Sunday night it is bringing a suit “to stop President Trump from violating the Constitution by illegally receiving payments from foreign governments.”
At issue is Trump’s refusal to divest from his business interests or place his assets into a blind trust, which would separate him entirely from his business empire. He has said his adult sons will run his business while he is in office, that they will not conduct any foreign deals and will subject any domestic deals to an ethics review.
“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,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said.
“He did not. His constitutional violations are immediate and serious, so we were forced to take legal action.”
The group says that because Trump has not divested from his businesses, he is “now getting cash and favors from foreign governments, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad.”
“President Trump has made his slogan ‘America First,’” Bookbinder added. “So you would think he would want to strictly follow the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, since it was written to ensure our government officials are thinking of Americans first, and not foreign governments.”
Trump lawyer Sheri Dillon said before the inauguration that under the business plan, Trump will not be in violation of the Constitution’s emolument clause.
“Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present and has nothing to do with an office,” she said. “It is not an emolument. The Constitution does not require President-elect Trump to do anything here.”
But CREW charges that because Trump does business with such countries as China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, “now that he is President, his company’s acceptance of any benefits from the governments of those countries violates the Constitution.”
It also warns that, “When Trump the president sits down to negotiate trade deals with these countries, the American people will have no way of knowing whether he will also be thinking about the profits of Trump the businessman.”
The group said the suit will be filed in the Southern District of New York at 9 a.m. on Monday.
The lawyers behind action include constitutional law professors Laurence Tribe and Erwin Chemerinsky, as well as former White House ethics lawyers and CREW board members Norm Eisen and Richard Painter, as well as Bookbinder, Zephyr Teachout and Deepak Gupta.