DOJ seeks dismissal of emoluments-clause lawsuit against Trump

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams, an appointee of former Democratic President Barack Obama, is presiding over the case.
By Kara Menard | Jun 11, 2017
The U.S. Department of Justice called for the dismissal Friday of a lawsuit that charges President Trump with unlawful conflict of interest for accepting payments from foreign government officials who patronize his hotels, restaurants, and other businesses. Justice lawyers filed the dismissal request in a federal court in Manhattan.

The plaintiffs in the case are a government-watchdog non-profit, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, along with Eric Goode, the part-owner of several boutique hotels and restaurants in New York City. The nonprofit group filed the lawsuit in January, citing the "emoluments" clause of the Constitution. This clause bars a sitting president from accepting gifts from foreign governments without the approval of Congress.

Goode joined the lawsuit in May.

Trump handed over day-to-day management of his businesses, including his hotels, to his sons when he took office in January. But he still maintains ultimate ownership of the enterprises and will profit in the long term when they profit, and he can legally withdraw money from them at any time. The plaintiffs argue that these conditions place him in violation of the clause.

The Justice Department legal team counters that the emoluments clause does not apply to hotel payments. It also argues that Goode has no compelling personal interest in the case and therefore no right to sue.

"Neither the text nor the history of the Clauses shows that they were intended to reach benefits arising from a President's private business pursuits having nothing to do with his office or personal service to a foreign power," wrote Jean Lin, Justice counsel. He added that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe would all have been in violation if this had been the intent.

U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams, an appointee of former Democratic President Barack Obama, is presiding over the case.

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