WASHINGTON, DC— Led by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal attorneys with the Constitutional Accountability Center will go to court Thursday to argue 200 members of Congress have the right to review foreign payments, benefits, or gifts going to the President Donald Trump.
In May, attorneys for the president urged a federal judge to dismiss the emoluments clause challenge insisting that none of the legal arguments raised by the historians and constitutional scholars preserve Congress’ ability to sue the president in court.
In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Blumenthal said this will put to the test the proposition that no one is above the law, not even the president” of the United States.
Blumenthal said Trump has repeatedly violated and thumbed his nose at the the plain text reading of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution which says that all members of the executive branch shall receive no gifts, payments, or benefits from foreign governments “of any kind whatever” without “the consent of the Congress.”
He said it’s a straightforward proposition.
“It comes down to whether I can do my job,” Blumenthal said. He said his job is review or consent or refuse to consent foreign benefits going to the president of the United States.
The record of the president accepting foreign benefits is shocking, Blumenthal said.
“The trademarks from China to him personally. The deals with the Trump organization around the world,” Blumenthal said.
Recently, Trump tweeted that he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to get ZTE back in business and save Chinese jobs, days after China agreed to put $500 million into an Indonesian theme park that will include a Trump hotel and golf course.
Blumenthal also mentioned the pattern of dealings with the Trump hotel in Washington D.C. which he says hired a sales manager to deal with foreign governments, specifically.
The Trump Organization donated $151,470 in foreign government profits at its hotels last year to the U.S. Treasury, an executive said in a March statement.
Blumenthal said the founders of the constitution wrote the emoluments clause because they wanted “judgments by the president to be made independent of any sort of benefit to him unless the Congress approves.”
However, Blumenthal said they can’t consent to what they do not know.
The Trump organization is not a public company and Trump never released his tax returns or put his business interests in a blind trust, which means there’s no way for Congress to know whether these dealings with foreign governments are in the best interest of the American people, Blumenthal said.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York said previously U.S. Presidents largely avoided the emoluments clause by putting their interests in a blind trust.
“President Trump is the first modern president, first president at all frankly, who has not divested himself of major interests,” Nadler said.
He said every time China gives Trump a trademark they are “putting money directly in the pocket of the president. This is an obvious violation of the emoluments clause and raises the question: is every decision he makes totally uninfluenced by private interests?”
Blumenthal said Congress needs the information to do their job and if Congress does not have standing then no one does.
There are two other lawsuits designed to enforce the emoluments clause and both raise the idea of competitive standing. This lawsuit is the only one able to challenge the president on constitutional grounds.
In a brief filed last year attorney’s for Trump argued that members of Congress can not rush to court to resolve the matter before dealing with it legislatively.
“They can redress that injury by convincing their colleagues to act,” Jean Lin, special counsel for the U.S. Department of Justice, wrote in his motion to dismiss.
He said “Congress has ample political means to press its views.”
Further, Lin argues that the definition being applied by Blumenthal and his attorneys is “overbroad and unreasonable.”
“The Foreign Emoluments Clause is not a comprehensive conflict of interest provision covering every conceivable type of activity that may raise an appearance of impropriety,” Lin wrote. “Instead, it specifically identifies four categories of benefits that officeholders may not accept, each of which has different characteristics.”
The hearing will be held at 10 a.m. Thursday in front of U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C.