Published: Sun, June 11, 2017
USA | By Kelli Rowe

Government seeks dismissal of suit over Trump's businesses

Responding to a lawsuit filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a liberal watchdog group, the Justice Department wrote that revenue from foreign governments at Trump businesses would not constitute emoluments as defined in the Constitution.

"Were plaintiffs" interpretation correct, presidents from the very beginning of the Republic, including George Washington, would have received prohibited "emoluments, '" the U.S. government filing said. The group maintained that Trump violated the emoluments clause because his properties collect rent and receive other payments from foreign governments. Furthermore, the Justice Department claims, the proposed injunction would violate the separation of powers, since dealing with the suit would impede the president's ability to perform his duties, and such an impairment can not be forced upon one branch of the government by another.

While presidents aren't subject to ethics laws that apply to other federal officeholders, most lawyers, including Trump's, agree that the foreign emoluments clause does apply to presidents. "And they understood that one way a republic could fail is if foreign powers could corrupt our elected leaders".

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"Given the president's unique status in the constitutional scheme, the framers envisioned only political means to ensure a president's compliance with constitutional provisions such as the Emoluments Clauses, not official-capacity injunctions against the president", according to the lawyers for the Justice Department's civil division in Washington.

"We heartily disagree and look forward to our day in court", stated the CREW spokesperson.

CREW, which has been leading force in combating the administration on ethics-related issues, is additionally seeking access to Trump's taxes in the suit. "It was our hope that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office", CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said at the time.

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Just prior to taking office, Trump announced he had turned over control of his businesses to his eldest sons, Eric and Donald Jr., in addition to a top Trump Organization official. The group also challenged as improper Trump Tower leases by the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. CREW argues that since the election, the hotel has marketed to the diplomatic community and has taken money from countries including Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.

"They do not prohibit any company in which the President has any financial interest from doing business with any foreign, federal, or state instrumentality", the court doc said.

The lawsuit alleges that Trump's arrangements present a "grave threat to the United States and its citizens", by "creating countless conflicts of interest, as well as unprecedented influence by foreign governments". "However, the relief sought in this case - forcing the President to restructure his financial affairs in order to comply with Plaintiffs" interpretation of the Constitution -cannot fairly be described as purely "ministerial'".

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