Although President Donald Trump has always maintained that his business has been kept separate from his administrative responsibilities, after his inauguration, nearly 200 congressional Democrats claimed that the president has continually violated the Emoluments Clause that prohibits him from profiting from business dealings with foreign governments. A federal lawsuit related to the violation of the clause has been filed against Trump on Wednesday.
Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution of the U.S. describes the Emoluments Clause in the following manner.
"The President shall, at stated times, receive for his services, a compensation, which shall neither be increased nor diminished during the period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that period any other emolument from the United States or any of them."
Any instance of the president receiving gifts, or emoluments, from foreign powers has to be approved by the Congress first. Since proper protocol was not followed regarding the Emoluments Clause, Democratic members of the House and Senate have raised the concern that they are being unfairly deprived of their constitutional right to make the final call on which emoluments Trump can or cannot receive.
"The founders ensured that federal officeholders would not decide for themselves whether particular emoluments were likely to compromise their own independence or lead them to put personal interest over national interest," the lawsuit states. "An officeholder, in short, should not be the sole judge of his own integrity."
Never has a current president been sued by so many members of the Congress. According to the New York Times, this could be a collaborative effort by the anti-Trump critics to force the president's hand and finally bid him to reveal his tax returns, that Trump has refrained from doing till now.
With the Democrats going forward with the lawsuit, this would be the third time Trump will be sued for profiting from his businesses by collecting payments from foreign diplomats who stay at his hotels and other establishments and receiving payments from foreign governments for services and goods, produced by his brand.
Similar to the lawsuit that is yet to be filed by the members of the Congress, the attorneys general for the District of Columbia and Maryland filed a lawsuit, Monday, claiming the president has violated the Emoluments Clause by retaining ownership of his businesses after he was sworn into presidential office.
"It's unprecedented that Americans must question day after day whether decisions are made or actions are taken to benefit the United States or to benefit President Trump," said Democratic Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh at a press conference, CNBC reported.
Earlier in 2017, private business owners filed a lawsuit against Trump because the hotels and restaurants owned by the president were directly in competition to their establishments. The lawsuit was filed with the federal court in New York by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a nonprofit watchdog group, according to the New York Times report.
The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) stated earlier this month that they do not hold the power to investigate whether Trump is violating the Constitution or not and that it is something that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has to look into.
"The emoluments issues are presently under judicial review, and, within the executive branch, are under the sole purview of the Department of Justice. OGE has no authority to investigate or order corrective action on the part of the President. Ultimately, under the Constitution, the authority to oversee the Presidency rests with the Congress," stated Director of OGE Walter Shaub.