Leahy Is A Leader Among Nearly 200 Members Of Congress Who Have Filed Lawsuit To Compel President Trump To Comply With Constitution’s EMOLUMENTS Clause
Leahy And Other Congressional Leaders Lay Out Constitutional Case
For Compelling President Trump To Obey Anti-Corruption Foreign Emoluments Clause
. . . In the week since nearly 200 Members of Congress filed a complaint to compel President Trump
to comply with the Constitution, public reporting has revealed new evidence of foreign benefits
WASHINGTON (TUESDAY, June 20, 2017) – Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) Tuesday joined Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Representative John Conyers (D-MI) in a news conference to outline the constitutional case for compelling President Trump to obtain the consent of Congress before accepting payments, benefits, or gifts from foreign states. Last week, Blumenthal and Conyers led a group of nearly 200 Members of Congress in filing a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against the President of the United States for President Trump’s ongoing violation of the anti-corruption Foreign Emoluments Clause.
The Foreign Emoluments Clause requires that all elected officials, including the president, seek the “consent of the Congress” before receiving any gifts, payments, or benefits from foreign governments. The Constitution’s Framers included such a requirement to protect against foreign influence on U.S. officials, and to ensure that those officials act in the national interest, instead of their own.
Blumenthal and Conyers, who are leading the legal action against President Trump, were joined at the press conference by Leahy and Senators Tom Udall (D-NM) and Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and by Representatives Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Katherine Clark (D-MA), and Brad Schneider (D-IL).
Full video of the press conference is available here (large file).
Blumenthal said: “We are joining in this action to prevent Donald Trump from thumbing his nose at the Constitution and the American people. The Constitution clearly states that no elected official - including the President - may receive gifts, payments, or benefits from foreign governments without disclosing them to Congress and seeking our consent. The immense magnitude of President Trump's vast business empire is no excuse for his disregard of the Constitution and disrespect for the American people.”
Conyers said: “For generations presidents of both parties have complied with the Foreign Emoluments Clause by either divesting their business and financial holdings, or coming to Congress to seek approval prior to receiving any foreign government payment or other benefits. Our current President has done neither. This course of conduct is keeping Americans in the dark – leaving us to speculate if he’s acting on behalf of the American people or for his own financial benefit. Our legal action is designed to help lift our nation out of this morass of conflicts and restore faith in our government, just as the Founders intended.”
Leahy said: “Americans deserve a president with undivided loyalties. We should never have to question whether a president makes a decision with the nation’s best interests at heart, or with his or her own profit interests. The framers of the Constitution thought this was so important that they required a president to seek approval from Congress before acquiring outside financial interests. President Trump is ignoring this constitutional safeguard. We are here today because we will not sit idly by while the President blatantly disregards the Constitution.”
Leahy continued: “We simply do not know the extent of the President’s conflicts of interest. He has not divested from his businesses. And we do not know how invested foreign governments are in his businesses because he has broken his promise to release his tax returns. But we do know that some foreign governments believe spending money at the Trump organization is a wise investment, and that is reason enough to be concerned. Just this past week, we learned that Russia extended four trademarks owned by President Trump on Election Day. We also learned that the share of Trump properties sold to limited liability companies, which can hide the buyers’ identities, has gone from 4 percent to 70 percent in the past year. This should concern all Americans who care about integrity and transparency in government. Complying with the Constitution is not optional. The President needs to fully separate himself from his business interests. The American people—and our constitutional form of government—deserve a President who acts solely in the public interest, not in his own personal interests.”
Because President Trump has refused to disclose his business dealings abroad, the full scope of his potential constitutional violations is unknown. Independent reporting has shown that President Trump has received the following foreign emoluments during his presidency among others:
- Payments from foreign governments housing their officials in rooms or hosting events at Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel after Inauguration Day;
- Entities owned by foreign states paying rent at Trump World Tower in New York City; and
- The Chinese government granting 39 trademarks to the Trump Organization.
In the week since the complaint was filed, public reporting has revealed that President Trump has received additional foreign benefits – including new trademarks in China– and is brokering business deals in Saudi Arabia and the Persian Gulf while regional tensions escalate. While President Trump continues to accept benefits from foreign governments, the lawmakers said Congress has no choice but to seek a remedy through the courts.
“If courts rule otherwise,” added Elizabeth Wydra, President of Constitutional Accountability Center, the public interest organization whose attorneys are representing Members of Congress in this case, “President Trump would be permitted to make government decisions subject to a glaring conflict of interest. The prospect that a president’s decisions would be influenced by foreign manipulation or his personal wealth is exactly why the nation’s Founders adopted the Foreign Emoluments Clause.”
The Constitution does not require Congress to seek information about any benefits the President may be receiving from other countries – rather, the President must affirmatively come to Congress to disclose any foreign gifts or payments and to obtain permission before accepting them. Nonetheless, Members of the Senate and the House have made repeated attempts to obtain information about President Trump’s business holdings and potential conflicts of interest. These and similar inquiries to Republican Congressional leadership have gone unanswered.
The full list of plaintiffs who have joined this case is available here. A Congressional Research Service analysis of suits by members of Congress found no larger such legal action throughout American history.
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Complaint, Blumenthal, Conyers, et al., vs. Trump: http://theusconstitution.org/sites/default/files/Congress_Emoluments_Complaint_FINAL.pdf
Why Members of Congress have standing: https://www.theusconstitution.org/sites/default/files/Standing-for-Blumenthal-Conyers-v-Trump.pdf
Key letters from Members of Congress seeking information about President Trump’s foreign emoluments: https://www.theusconstitution.org/sites/default/files/Congressional-Requests-for-Conflicts-of-Interest.pdf
David Carle: 202-224-3693
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