A group of constitutional and ethics lawyers are planning to sue Donald Trump, arguing that payments his businesses receive from entities tied to foreign governments violates the United States Constitution.
“The framers of the Constitution were students of history,” one of the lawyers, Deepak Gupta, said. “And they understood that one way a republic could fail is if foreign powers could corrupt our elected leaders.”
The constitution’s Emoluments Clause bars U.S. presidents from receiving money from foreign governments. The lawyers argue that this means Trump businesses should not be allowed to get bank loans, hotel room charges or office rent payments from any entity with ties to a foreign government. This could apply to the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China and the Abu Dhabi tourism office, which have signed leases at Trump-owned buildings.
The group, which includes Laurence Tribe, Zephyr Teachout, Norman Eisen, Erwin Chemerinsky and Richard Painter, seeks a court order barring Trump from receiving payments from foreign governments.
Trump’s attorneys counter that the Emoluments Clause only bars payments that go beyond fair market value. “This is purely harassment for political gain, and, frankly, I find it very, very sad,” Trump’s son Eric , an executive vice president at the Trump Organization, told the New York Times.
He argued that the Trump Organization had gone to great lengths to avoid legal issues, agreeing to donate any profits at Trump-owned hotels that come from foreign government officials to the U.S. Treasury.
It is unclear whether the suit has a real shot at succeeding, but one of the plaintiffs told the Times that one of the suit’s goals is to get a hand on Trump’s tax returns.