Just days after Donald Trump took office and after a raucous weekend of demonstrations around the country, the first lawsuit has been filed against him alleging that he is in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause in the Constitution. To be clear, the Constitution is the document that he swore to preserve, protect, and defend just three days ago.The lawsuit, filed by watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), alleges that Trump’s holdings around the world and his unwillingness to place his holdings in a blind trust put him in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause.
The Foreign Emoluments Clause, which has never been examined or interpreted by the Supreme Court, is designed to deter interference of foreign governments in US politics by strictly forbidding the acceptance of gifts or payment from foreign states or leaders. Specifically, the clause states that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
Of particular concern to CREW and highlighted in the lawsuit are hundreds of millions of dollars in loans that Trump has taken out from the Bank of China (which is run by the state) and Deutsche Bank.
Quoted recently in the Huffington Post, Fordham law professor Zephyr Teachout, argued that the lawsuit should go forward: “The framers of our Constitution did everything they could to protect against corruption, especially foreign corruption. President Trump’s insistence on taking payments from foreign governments is a blatant violation of a foundational clause in our Constitution, and a foundational principle of our country.” Teachout is a legal expert on the legal team representing CREW.
Donald Trump swore that he would defend the Constitution. He cannot selectively defend the pieces that he likes – he is responsible for defending all of it.