Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a watchdog group, has filed a federal lawsuit in New York under the US Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause. The clause is supposed to protect against influence by barring presidents from accepting gifts from foreign governments with the permission of Congress.
CREW is set to argue its case before Judge George Daniels. DOJ attorneys have asked the judge to dismiss the case. CREW’s legal team will retaliate by saying that Trump himself put the obscure Constitutional provision in play by refusing to follow precedent and sell his business holdings prior to his inauguration, or by placing his assets in a blind trust. Trump instead placed his assets into a Trust which supposedly is being handled by his sons and one of his lawyers, and he promised that the Trump Organization would be handed over to Donald Jr. and Eric Trump.
The veracity of Trump’s claims are questionable. It became known in April that the language of the trust document concerning the Trump Organization had secretly been changed so that the president can do whatever he wants with his assets. Per ProPublica’s report:
“The previously unreported changes to a trust document, signed on Feb. 10, stipulates that it “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request” or whenever his son and longtime attorney “deem appropriate.” That can include everything from profits to the underlying assets, such as the businesses themselves.”
Whenever Trump chooses, he can withdraw cash payments from any of his businesses. CREW argues that Trump and other government leaders frequent Trump’s hotels, clubs and restaurants, and the Trump Organization presumably profits from that. This puts Trump in breach of the Emoluments Clause, and raises the concern that international officials will visit his properties in an effort to curry favor with Trump. That could potentially influence government policy and, even further line the president’s own pockets.