Trump, Dems to clash in court over president’s empire
Donald Trump and Congressional Democrats will be in court Thursday sparring over whether he’s personally profiting from his presidency.
A group of almost 200 Democrats say he is because he’s decided to hang on to his global business holdings – enabling him to make money by doing business with foreign governments in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause. Trump says they’re wrong and plans to ask a judge Thursday to throw the year-old case out of court.
The argument in Washington federal court “will essentially put to the test the proposition that no one is above the law, not even the president," U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told reporters on June 4.
Trump’s attorneys say lawmakers – not the courts – should resolve the dispute. The Democrats, a minority in Congress, have introduced legislation declaring him in violation of the clause, but the Republican majority won’t vote on that or another related bill. Trump said their refusal to vote isn’t his fault.
The Democrats’ lawsuit is the third attempt to block the president from profiting from his business empire without congressional approval. Among his assets is a Washington hotel frequented by foreign dignitaries and intellectual property including about 50 trademarks granted preliminary recognition by the Chinese government last year.
Trump’s company also has more than two dozen hotels and golf courses around the world, which critics and good-government watchdogs allege could be prime destinations for foreign governments seeking to curry favor. The Trump Organization has pledged to donate any profits generated from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury. That amounted to about $151,000 last year.
In December, a U.S. judge in New York threw out a lawsuit similar to the Democrats’, which was lodged by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and hospitality industry competitors, concluding they hadn’t shown they’d been harmed by his actions.
But a Maryland federal court judge in March said attorneys general of that state and the District of Columbia had made a sufficient showing so far to let that case move forward. A second round of arguments in that case will be heard on June 11.
The cases are Blumenthal v. Trump, 17-cv-1154, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington) and The District of Columbia v. Trump, 17-cv-1596, U.S. District Court, District of Maryland (Greenbelt).