Trump rejects new lawsuit over foreign payments to his firms

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By Jonathan Stempel

<span class="articleLocation”>President Donald Trump on Monday dismissed
allegations in a new lawsuit by prominent constitutional and
ethics lawyers that he is violating the U.S. Constitution by
letting his hotels and other businesses accept payments from
foreign governments.

Trump told reporters at the White House that the lawsuit by
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington was “without merit.”

The nonprofit contended that Trump is “submerged in
conflicts of interest” from his ties to countries such as China,
India and potentially Russia, potentially posing a “creeping,
insidious threat” to the country.

Its lawsuit seeks to stop Trump from accepting any improper
payments, saying a constitutional provision known as the “emoluments” clause bans them.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

It is part of a wave of expected litigation from liberal
advocacy groups against Trump, a Republican who took office on
Friday.

On Jan. 11, Trump said he would retain ownership of his
global business empire while president, but hand off day-to-day
control to his oldest sons, Eric and Donald Jr..

Sheri Dillon, a Trump adviser, said at the time that profit
generated at Trump’s hotels from foreign governments would be
donated to the U.S. Treasury.

But the lawsuit said Trump’s refusal to cede ownership or
set up a blind trust has resulted in conflicts of interest that
leave him “poised” to violate the Constitution repeatedly while
in the White House.

Natalie Gewargis – a spokeswoman for Morgan Lewis & Bockius,
a law firm representing Trump on ethics matters and where Dillon
is a partner – said on Monday: “We do not comment on our clients
or the work we do for them.”

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams, an appointee of former
President Barack Obama, will preside over the lawsuit.

HOTELS STAYS, “APPRENTICE” RIGHTS

The emoluments clause forbids Trump and other U.S.
officeholders from accepting various gifts from foreign
governments without congressional approval.

According to the complaint, that makes payments by foreign
governments for various services by Trump’s companies illegal.

These allegedly include sums for the state-owned Industrial
and Commercial Bank of China’s lease at Trump Tower in New York,
stays at Trump’s hotels, rounds at Trump’s golf courses, and the
rights to rebroadcast or create new versions of Trump’s reality
TV show “The Apprentice.”

The Constitution’s framers intended to ban such payments,
believing that “private financial interests can subtly sway even
the most virtuous leaders, and entanglements between American
officials and foreign powers could pose a creeping, insidious
threat to the Republic,” the complaint said.

China, India, Indonesia, Turkey and the United Kingdom are
among the countries with which Trump’s companies do or plan to
do business, and Trump had been trying to do business with
Russia for at least three decades, the complaint said.

Meanwhile, payments for a Washington hotel booking next
month by the Embassy of Kuwait for its “National Day”
celebration are expected to “go directly to defendant while he
is president,” the complaint added.

One potential hurdle concerns whether the plaintiff has
legal standing to sue.

The nonprofit said it does, claiming it was “significantly
injured” by having to divert resources to the lawsuit and field
hundreds of media questions about Trump’s businesses.

Among the lawyers who worked on the complaint were
constitutional scholars Laurence Tribe of Harvard University,
and Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California at
Irvine’s law school.

Others include Richard Painter, a White House ethics lawyer
under former Republican President George W. Bush. (Additional reporting by Steve Holland in Washington, D.C.)



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