House chairman warns foreign governments to 'cease and desist' spending money at Trump properties

House chairman warns foreign governments to 'cease and desist' spending money at Trump properties
© Aaron Schwartz

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot EngelEliot Lance EngelHouse Republicans 'demand the release of the rules' on impeachment Overnight Defense — Presented by Boeing — Trump insists Turkey wants cease-fire | Fighting continues in Syrian town | Pentagon chief headed to Mideast | Mattis responds to criticism from Trump Testimony from GOP diplomat complicates Trump defense MORE (D-N.Y.) announced Tuesday that he is directing his panel's staff to warn foreign governments against spending money at President TrumpDonald John TrumpZuckerberg launches public defense of Facebook as attacks mount Trump leaning toward keeping a couple hundred troops in eastern Syria: report Warren says making Israel aid conditional on settlement building is 'on the table' MORE's businesses, arguing it violates the Constitution.

In a memo dated Monday, Engel instructed Democratic committee staff who meet with foreign officials to warn that spending money at Trump-owned properties may be a violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, which states that presidents cannot accept money or gifts from foreign governments without consent from Congress.

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"When meeting with officials from a foreign government, please inform them that by providing any form of payment or benefit to a Trump-owned property their government is facilitating the president's apparent violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause," Engel's memo states. "Please urge those foreign officials to transmit to their governments that the House Foreign Affairs Committee requests that they cease and desist payments to the Trump Organization unless and until Congress approves the emolument, as provided in the Constitution."

Trump has retained ownership of his businesses but handed off day-to-day operations to his two adult sons, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpDOJ: McGahn, Trump Jr. did not testify before Mueller grand jury Clothing company erects billboard of Marine Corps vet hogtying Trump in front of White House Dem committee chairs blast Trump G-7 announcement MORE and Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpDem committee chairs blast Trump G-7 announcement Donald Trump Jr. hits back at critics over hypocrisy claims The Hill's Morning Report — Arrest of Giuliani associates triggers many questions MORE, since becoming president.

Engel's directive comes as a lawsuit brought by House Democrats arguing that Trump is violating the Constitution's Emoluments Clause is making its way through the courts. A federal appeals court last month rejected a Justice Department request to dismiss the lawsuit.

Democrats have issued subpoenas to Trump's businesses as part of their lawsuit.

But another federal court in July dismissed a lawsuit filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia alleging that Trump was violating the Emoluments Clause. All three judges issuing the opinion were appointed by Republican presidents.

Trump claimed victory after that court's ruling, tweeting that he "won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt."
 
"I don’t make money, but lose a fortune for the honor of serving and doing a great job as your President (including accepting Zero salary!)," he tweeted.

House Democrats have also sought to use the power of the purse to prevent the federal government from spending money at Trump's businesses, which they argue is also a violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause meant to prevent U.S. presidents from receiving compensation outside of their official taxpayer salary.

Democrats passed annual spending bills this summer that included provisions to prevent federal spending at Trump businesses, ranging from his hotels and golf courses. But the provision is unlikely to become law, given expected opposition in the GOP-controlled Senate.