Yesterday I suggested the New Patriot Women’s Union take the old post office in Washington, and give it back to the people. Today, a law suit was filed to do just that! Folks laughed at Old Uncle Samaclaus, and said he was cracked. Look who is smiling ear to ear! Let the NPWU form the People’s Patriotic Bank and get ready to receive Trump’s Folly – and Waterloo! Encircle this hotel and make him cry “UNCLE!”
Jon Presco a.k.a. Uncle Samaclause
“Donald Trump just attacked the Press, and Crowd Size, at CIA headquarters. His press guy just held his first conference and attacked the Press – and Crowd Size! How many forums does this megalomania need to declare War on Women, and everyone that did not vote for him? We the People pay taxes for these podiums. His people went after the Park Services. Their Hotel may go against the Constitution. Let us concentrate on Trump Castle. Let’s see it as America’s Bastille. Let’s go for the Post Offices on Lincoln’s birthday.”
Red, white and blue balloons rained down over crystal chandeliers in the soaring atrium of the Trump International Hotel at midnight in “a new inaugural tradition,” its social media account promised.
But while President Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington did serve as a hub of Friday’s inaugural activities, it also stands as ground zero for what top Democrats and some ethics advisers see as his unique web of conflicts of interest.
Trump’s lease with the federal government to develop and operate a hotel inside the historic Old Post Office building expressly prohibits any elected official from benefiting from the property, yet Trump has not divested from his company or this particular project.
A liberal watchdog group says it plans to file a lawsuit against President Trump in federal court on Monday alleging that he is in violation of a little-known constitutional provision that bars him from taking gifts or payments from foreign governments.
The group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said that because Trump-owned buildings take in rent, room rentals and other payments from foreign governments, the president has breached the Emoluments Clause. That clause in the Constitution says 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.” It was written out of fear that the young republic’s leaders or ambassadors could be bought off by a richer European power.
The meaning of those words has never truly been tested in court. The watchdog group says the text should be interpreted to mean that Trump’s businesses should cease all business dealings with foreign states.
The clause, the legal complaint says, “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. 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.” The group provided The Washington Post with a copy of the complaint, which has not yet been filed.
The group’s proposed lawsuit was first reported Sunday afternoon by the New York Times.
If the lawsuit were to succeed, it could put a major dent in the business of the Trump Organization — whose businesses lease office space to state-owned companies, and whose Pennsylvania Avenue hotel rents its ballrooms for foreign embassy parties. The mere process of the suit could prove embarrassing for the president if it drags out details of those business dealings from the Trump Organization’s private files. Norm Eisen, a lawyer working on the case, told the New York Times he hoped the suit could also produce a copy of Trump’s tax returns, which could detail the business he does with — and the money he owes to — foreign states such as China and Russia.
The law firm Morgan, Lewis and Bockius, which represents Trump, declined to comment. So did Trump’s son Eric Trump, who is among the leaders of the Trump Organization while his father is president. Attempts to reach the White House press office Sunday evening were unsuccessful.
Before the president took office, Dillon said Trump would transfer management of his businesses to his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., along with other executives. The president will, however, not give up his ownership stakes. Dillon said it is incorrect to say Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause if his company merely does business with a foreign government — taking its money and giving it something of value in return.
“This is not what the Constitution says. Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present, and it has nothing to do with an office. It’s not an emolument,” Dillon said then.
In this particular case, the liberal watchdog group’s suit appears likely to face difficult legal hurdles. One would be Dillon’s argument that paying a hotel bill is not a prohibited gift.
Another problem is the question of the watchdog group’s standing to sue. There is a general legal rule that to file suit against someone for wrongdoing, a plaintiff must have suffered some specific harm from that wrongdoing. That’s an issue that has hung over all the discussions of an Emoluments Clause lawsuit: If Trump does violate the Constitution, whom does he hurt?
In this case, the watchdog says its own group was hurt by having to spend so much time monitoring this particular issue.
“CREW has been forced to divert essential and limited resources — including time and money — from other important matters that it ordinarily would have been handling to the Foreign Emoluments Clause issues involving Defendant, which have consumed the attention of the public and the media,” the planned lawsuit complaint says.
Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, was the chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2007 and is now the vice chairman of CREW’s board of directors. He argued that the group has standing because it has been distracted from its usual focus issues.
“CREW’s whole purpose is about combating corruption in the federal government,” he said. “So up until this point, the two major causes of corruption in the government were the revolving door in Washington and campaign finance. The vast majority of resources were spent on that. It was a two-front war, and now this opens up a third front.”
He added: “The injury to the organization is that it’s much more difficult to accomplish the organization’s mission.”
Other legal scholars have said that claim may not be enough of an injury to let CREW’s case continue. Another theory is that the best-positioned party to sue Trump may be a rival D.C. hotel, if one of them lost out on embassy business because the embassies used the Trump hotel instead. But that would require finding a large D.C. hotel with a willingness to sue the president of the United States at the outset of his term.