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 EngelUS officials, world leaders arrive in Israel for World Holocaust Forum  House Democrats may call new impeachment witnesses if Senate doesn't Overnight Defense: Book says Trump called military leaders 'dopes and babies' | House reinvites Pompeo for Iran hearing | Dems urge Esper to reject border wall funding request 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 TrumpSchiff pleads to Senate GOP: 'Right matters. And the truth matters.' Anita Hill to Iowa crowd: 'Statute of limitations' for Biden apology is 'up' Sen. Van Hollen releases documents from GAO investigation 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 TrumpComedians post fake Army recruitment posters featuring Trump Jr. Trump Jr., Ivanka garner support in hypothetical 2024 poll FWS: There's 'no basis' to investigate Trump Jr.'s Mongolian hunting trip MORE and Eric TrumpEric Frederick TrumpSecurity for Trump's Mar-a-Lago visits cost local taxpayers million Trump Organization to cut off bids on Washington hotel this month FBI searched home and office of lobbyist Trump denied knowing: report 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.