New Lawsuit Against Trump Alleges Constitutional Violations

By Christopher Coble, Esq. on January 24, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The average citizen might not be too familiar with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, but we're guessing that weird word will become more commonplace in American diction in the near future. Legally speaking, an emolument is a payment, advantage, or profit gained from a person's possession of elected office. And the reason for its recent prominence in headlines is the new possessor of the highest office in the land.

As many began pointing out long before he was elected, President Donald Trump could run into more than a few ethical dilemmas while in office, not the least of which are foreign governments making payments to his many hotels and businesses. Now the first lawsuit has been filed alleging the new president is violating the Constitution by allowing his businesses to accept these payments, and you can see the list of allegations below:

Esoteric Emoluments

The lawsuit was filed by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), an organization made up of prominent constitutional scholars, Supreme Court litigators, and former White House ethics lawyers. They claim that payments to Trump's businesses, while he has yet to divest himself or put the businesses in a blind trust, amount to constitutional violations of Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The Emoluments Clause reads:

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.

The lawsuit argues that foreign governments paying Trump-owned businesses, like the Embassy of Kuwait holding its National Day celebration at Trump's Washington, D.C. International Hotel, amount to an emolument, and that without Congressional consent, the emoluments violate the Constitution.

Constitutional Conflicts

The lawsuit is asking a U.S. District Court to declare that Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause and to bar him from continued profits while in office. For his part, Trump denies any constitutional violation or conflict of interest. According to the lawsuit, Trump told the New York Times, "the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can't have a conflict of interest," and later asserted, "I have a no-conflict situation because I'm president."

Whether the new president's legal analysis will trump that of CREW remains to be seen. In the meantime, you can get a look at their lawsuit below:

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Trump by FindLaw on Scribd

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