Fordham University law professor and one-time Democratic congressional candidate Zephyr Teachout accused President Donald Trump of violating the U.S. Constitution by taking money from foreign governments in a lawsuit.
Referring to Trump’s worldwide business interests, which he has declined to put into a blind trust and instead put his two sons in charge of the day-to-day operations, as well as his refusal to release his tax returns, which could shine some light about where Trump gets money from. Teachout said Trump is likely violating the Emolument Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
“As a law professor, I began exploring the clause in 2009 while examining the framers’ near-obsession with protecting against corruption,” wrote Teachout, who lost a bid for a New York Congress seat in 2016. “The clause represented a deliberate break from European traditions, where financial relationships between a country’s representatives and other governments were common. And it epitomized ‘the particularly demanding notion of corruption’ held by our framers.”
She continued: “I never expected the clause to be litigated: Presidents and federal officials have gone out of their way to avoid violating it. Until now. But Trump’s blatant violation of the clause is a violation of our fundamental document and our fundamental principles.”
Teachout, along with the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed the lawsuit against Trump alleging that he violated the clause, which they say “is no relic of a bygone era, but rather an expression of insight into the nature of the human condition and the preconditions of self-governance,” according to the complaint, reported on by The Washington Post. “And applied to Donald J. Trump’s diverse dealings, the text and purpose of the Foreign Emoluments Clause speak as one: this cannot be allowed.”
But Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons who has reportedly taken control of the Trump Organization, said they have taken more steps than legally required to separate his father from the family business.
“This is purely harassment for political gain, and, frankly, I find it very, very sad,” he told The New York Times.
And Sheri Dillon, one of Trump’s lawyers, argued that the president’s business is in hotels and if a foreign official pays for a hotel room and Trump profits, that wouldn’t be violate the U.S. Constitution.
“No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument,” she said.
Sources: The Washington Post (2), The New York Times / Photo credit: Michael Johnson/Flickr