Trump Hit With Ethics Lawsuit Over Foreign Payments

A watchdog organization sued Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution

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Jan 23, 2017 at 4:18 PM ET

The first of what could be many ethics lawsuits lobbed against President Donald Trump was filed on Monday. The suit, filed by liberal-leaning watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility for Ethics in Washington, accuses Trump of violating the foreign emoluments clause of the constitution, which states that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

The lawsuit says that, because Trump has refused to divest himself of his many foreign business interests, he will profit through them when any foreign government gives those business interests money. That includes, the suit says, leases in Trump Tower, hotel stays by foreign governments in Trump hotels, and even the rights to broadcast “The Apprentice” in various countries through their state-owned media. The suit says that Trump violated the clause as soon as he was sworn into office and will continue to violate it until he fully divests from his businesses.

Trump announced that he would transfer his businesses to his adult sons to run while he is president at a press conference with prop folders full of possibly blank papers that no one was allowed to see the insides of. There were questions over whether or not Trump had even resigned from his businesses as he promised. On Monday, CNN reported that Trump had indeed resigned from “more than 400 entities,” though he had not given up his ownership stake in them. The lawsuit says this isn’t enough and calls for Trump to sell his ownership stake in his companies as well, which he has refused to do.

Trump should expect more lawsuits of this nature: The New York Times reported that the ACLU is also looking into a lawsuit against Trump for violating the emoluments clause. CREW is also trying to get Trump’s lease on the Old Post Office building, which is the site of a hotel, revoked, citing a clause in the lease that says no elected official can receive any benefit from the lease.

Trump said on Monday that CREW’s lawsuit was “totally without merit.”