June 14, 2017
Public Citizen Applauds Lawmakers’ Lawsuit to Enforce the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution
Nearly 200 Members of Congress Sue President Trump for Receiving Illegal Payments from Foreign Governments
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen supports the lawsuit filed today against President Donald Trump by nearly 200 members of Congress accusing him of violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The lawsuit – the third such suit filed – is designed to compel the president to stop violating the important constitutional provision that prohibits government officials from receiving payments from foreign governments without the consent of Congress.
“This lawsuit – filed by 24 senators and 172 representatives – is particularly significant because it brings members of Congress into the debate over Trump and the Constitution’s anti-bribery clause,” said Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist for Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The Constitution vests oversight of the Emoluments Clause with Congress, and members have importantly decided to exercise their constitutional responsibility through this lawsuit.”
The Foreign Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution reads: “No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them [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.” This includes a ban on payments of salaries and gifts from foreign governments to American public officials without the explicit consent of Congress. It has been invoked on occasion in American history, perhaps most notably when Ambassador Ben Franklin sought and received congressional approval to keep a diamond-studded snuff box from the King of France.
“The framers of the Constitution were very concerned about the ability of wealthy foreign governments to curry favor with public officials with lavish payments and gifts,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “The framers were so concerned, they put the ban right in the Constitution.”
The day Donald Trump became president and refused to divest from his vast business empire at home and abroad, it created a constitutional crisis, Public Citizen maintains. Trump continues to be enriched with business dealings with China, India and Azerbaijan, as well as his domestic hotel business which is attracting droves of foreign government officials, and conferences and parties of these foreign officials.
“The framers were so attuned to the threat that corruption poses to a working democracy that they wrote anti-corruption measures into the nation’s foundational document,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Unfortunately, we’re now living with what will likely be known as the most corrupt administration in American history.”
The congressional lawsuit against Trump is available here.