U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter said Friday he’s suing President Donald Trump because he believes it’s a violation of the Constitution if the president’s businesses keep receiving payments from foreign governments without an OK from Congress.
Perlmutter is among the nearly 200 congressional Democrats — including all three fellow Democrats in Colorado’s delegation, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet and U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette and Jared Polis — who signed on this week to a lawsuit charging Trump with violating the Constitution’s “foreign emoluments clause.”
The clause requires “the consent of Congress” before federal officials can accept valuables “from any King, Prince or foreign State.”
“I felt it necessary to join this lawsuit because President Trump refuses to separate himself from his business interests and release his tax returns,” Perlmutter said in a statement.
“Never before in our history, have we had a President come remotely close to violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Every President dating back to Richard Nixon has not only released their tax returns but also taken steps to ensure public trust and avoid real or perceived impropriety.”
Citing arguments made in the lawsuit, which was spearheaded by Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Michigan Rep. John Conyers, Perlmutter said Trump and his family are continuing to “operate and promote” their vast business empire both in the United States and abroad.
“The evidence suggests foreign governments have granted approval of trademarks, paid for rooms and meals at Trump hotels, and are leasing space at Trump properties,” Perlmutter said. “The courts will now decide if the President is violating the Constitution by continuing to profit from foreign governments without the consent of Congress.”
The lawsuit is just the latest round in Bennet’s ongoing criticism of Trump’s “unprecedented conflicts of interest since taking office,” his office said.
“He has repeatedly called on the president and his administration to comply with the Constitution and make clear that they are placing the American people’s interest above those of the president’s businesses,” a Bennet spokeswoman told Colorado Politics.
Bennet has sponsored legislation urging Trump to cut financial ties with his businesses and fully divest his personal financial conflicts of interest. He’s also written the White House asking about the president’s efforts to minimize conflicts of interest.
When he took office, Trump turned over control of his business empire to his two adult sons and a business executive but didn’t divest his holdings or place them into a blind trust, as some legal and ethics experts advised was necessary to avoid running afoul of the Constitution.
The lawsuit by congressional Democrats is the third filed against Trump over the previously obscure constitutional clause since he took office in January. The other two, led by an ethics organization and a pair of Democratic attorneys general from Maryland and the District of Columbia, make similar charges on slightly different grounds.
In a legal filing responding to one of the other emoluments lawsuits, the Justice Department argued that the clause was never intended to apply to transactions for goods and services in the open market, such as bookings at Trump’s hotels or real estate transactions.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Monday he believed “partisan politics” was motivating the lawsuit filed by the attorneys general, both Democrats, and rejected claims Trump was unconstitutionally profiting from his office.
By Friday morning, no Republicans had joined the congressional lawsuit, although Blumenthal said when it was filed that he was inviting every Republican in Congress to sign on as plaintiffs.