by Lee DeVito
Plaintiffs, 30 members of the United States Senate and 166 members of the United States House of Representatives, bring this action against President Donald J. Trump to obtain relief from the President’s continuing violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution, which was designed to ensure that our nation’s leaders would not be corrupted by foreign influence or put their own financial interests over the national interest. To achieve those aims, the Clause provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], 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.”1 Through this measure, the nation’s Founders invested members of Congress with an important role in preventing the corruption and foreign influence that the Founders sought to avoid—permitting federal officeholders to accept otherwise prohibited “Emolument[s]” only if they first received “the Consent of the Congress.”Before taking office, Trump placed his interests in a trust and turned business operations to his sons. However, as the suit notes:
Defendant is the owner, in whole or in part, of hundreds of businesses, which are “linked in a complex network of interconnected individual corporations, limited liability companies and partnerships. The list includes more than 500 separate entities—hotels, golf courses, media properties, books, management companies, residential and commercial buildings, . . . airplanes and a profusion of shell companies set up to capitalize on licensing deals.” These business interests are located in the United States and in at least twenty foreign countries.And:
While it is well known that Defendant’s business empire is vast and global, the exact nature of his holdings and the benefits he receives from them remain unclear. Defendant has refused to release his tax returns, and the complicated interconnection between the hundreds of discrete business entities and shell companies in which he owns an interest makes it impossible to determine the full scope of the benefits he is currently accepting from foreign states.