Thursday, March 9, 2017

Suit Will Claim Foreign Payments to Trump Firms Violate Constitution


A team of prominent Constitutional scholars, Supreme Court Litigators, and former White House Ethics Lawyers intends to file a Lawsuit alleging that President Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his Hotels and other Business Operations to Accept Payments from Foreign Governments.

The lawsuit is among a barrage of legal Actions against the Trump Administration that have been initiated or are being planned by Major Liberal Advocacy Organizations. Such Suits are among the few outlets they have to challenge the Administration now that Republicans are in control of the Government.

In the new Case, the Lawyers argue that a Provision in the Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause bans Payments from Foreign powers like the ones to Trump’s Companies. They cite fears among the Framers of the Constitution that United States officials could be corrupted by Gifts or Payments.

The Suit, which will not seek any monetary damages, will ask a Federal Court in New York to order Trump to stop taking Payments from Foreign Government entities. Such payments, it says, include those from Patrons at Trump Hotels and Golf Courses; Loans for his Office Buildings from certain Banks controlled by Foreign Governments; and Leases with Tenants like the Abu Dhabi Tourism Office, a Government Enterprise.

Since Trump has not given up his stock interest in the Trump Organization, passing day-to-day operations to his sons, does not relieve his "Conflict of Interest". As part of the Emoluments Clause, there is the ability for Congress to waiver the gift or payment. But they would have to process a waiver for each payment.

“The framers of the Constitution were students of history,” said Deepak Gupta, one of the Lawyers behind the Suit. “And they understood that one way a republic could fail is if foreign powers could corrupt our elected leaders.”

The President’s son Eric Trump, who is an Executive Vice President of the Trump Organization, said the Company had taken more steps than required by Law to avoid Legal exposure, such as agreeing to donate any profits collected at Trump-owned Hotels that come from Foreign Government Guests to the United States Treasury. But since that payment would be made at the end of the year, Trump would still be in an "Conflict of Interest" until the end of the year and how would the interest on the set aside money be handled.

The President’s Lawyers have argued that the Constitutional provision does not apply to Fair-Market payments, such as a Standard Hotel Room Bill, and is intended only to prevent Federal officials from accepting a Special consideration or Gift from a Foreign Power.

“No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument,” one of the Lawyers, Sheri A. Dillon, a partner at Morgan Lewis, said.

The Legal Team filing the Lawsuit includes Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard Constitutional Scholar; Norman L. Eisen, an Obama Administration Ethics Lawyer; and Erwin Chemerinsky, the Dean of the Law School at the University of California, Irvine. Among the others are Richard W. Painter, an Ethics Counsel in the Administration of George W. Bush; Mr. Gupta, a Supreme Court Litigator who has Three Cases pending before the Court; and Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University Law Professor and former Congressional Candidate who has been studying and writing about the Emoluments Clause for nearly a decade.

Ms. Teachout said the one place of potential concern was a Nation like China, which Rents space at Trump Tower in New York and is a Major Lender to an office building in New York that Mr. Trump controls in part.

Foreign Governments, Ms. Teachout and other Ethics Experts warn, could Rent out Rooms in Trump Hotels as a way to send a message to the Trump family. “If you think other countries are not going to try to leverage relationships with Trump’s companies to influence trade or military policy, that is na├»ve,” she said.

Mr. Eisen said the Legal Team intended to use the Lawsuit to try to get a copy of Trump’s Federal Tax Returns, which are needed to properly assess what Income or other Payments or Loans Trump has received from Foreign Governments.

The Plaintiff in the Lawsuit is a Liberal Group known as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which until recently was controlled by David Brock, a Democratic Party operative and fervent supporter of Clinton’s Campaign.

Mr. Eisen now serves as Chairman of the Organization’s Board, and Mr. Painter is Vice Chairman.

The Lawsuit may run into trouble, other Legal Experts said, given that CREW, as the organization is known, must demonstrate that it would suffer Direct and Concrete Injury to give it Standing to Sue. The Group says it has suffered harm by having to divert Resources from other work to monitor and respond to Trump’s Activities. For example, the Group said, it has answered hundreds of questions from news organizations.

In a 1982 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a Civil Rights Organization had standing to Sue because its use of black “Testers” to see whether Landlords and Home Sellers were abiding by Federal Law had hurt its ability to Conduct other Activities. But in recent decades, and outside the context of Civil Rights violations, the Court has often been skeptical of Broad assertions of Standing.

Regardless of the Lawsuit’s fate, it is just the first hint of the Legal assault that the Trump Administration will face.

Anthony D. Romero, the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said it was separately looking for Plaintiffs to file a Lawsuit alleging that Trump is Violating the Emoluments Clause. It hopes to find a Hotel or Bed-and-Breakfast that might compete against a Trump Hotel as a Party with Standing to Sue.

The A.C.L.U. filed an extensive Freedom of Information Act request asking the Justice Department, the General Services Administration, and the Office of Government Ethics for all Legal Opinions and Memos they have prepared addressing Financial or Ethical Conflicts that Trump might face. It could potentially use those Documents in Litigation against the Trump Administration.

CREW filed a separate Complaint with the General Services Administration over a Provision that appears to Prohibit the Leasing of the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington to an Elected Federal Official. The building is the site of Trump’s Hotel.

Perhaps more important, the Legal Groups said they might challenge Executive Actions Trump is expected to take on topics like International Trade deals, Illegal Immigration, and Climate Change.

UPDATE

How do you compete with a Restaurant at President Trump's Hotel down the road from the White House? Two Washington Restaurateurs argue you can't — and have Sued him over it.

The Plaintiffs are Khalid Pitts and Diane Gross, who own Cork Wine Bar and Cork Market & Tasting Room. They allege Unfair Competition under Local Law and have filed a Lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court against Trump personally and against the Trump Old Post Office LLC, which operates the Hotel.

They aren't seeking Monetary Damages but are asking Trump to remedy the Unfair Competition by Resigning, Divesting from the Hotel or Closing it while he's President. Pitts and Gross are represented by Business and Government Watchdog Attorneys who say they are working for free.

Alan Garten, Lead Attorney for the Trump Organization, dismissed the Lawsuit as "a wild publicity stunt completely lacking in legal merit."

Pitts is Politically active, having Run in 2014 as an Independent for a Seat on the D.C. Council. Prior to that Race, he'd been Registered as a Democrat. He previously did work for the Service Employees International Union. Gross, a Lawyer, worked from 2003 to 2005 for former Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat.

Pitts said the Couple's Political leanings are "irrelevant." He said his Dining, Catering, and Events Business is down since Trump took Office, but he declined to give details. Cork Wine Bar has about 70 seats.

Under Constitutional Immunity protections, Trump can't be sued over official acts in the Oval Office. But he can be Named in Lawsuits for Personal Actions or those involving his Businesses.

Trump turned over management of his Companies to his two adult sons and a Senior Company Executive.

He still retains Ownership of his Global Business Empire, which includes the Hotel.











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