U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter wants courts to decide if Trump’s ongoing foreign business deals violate Constitution

Author: Ernest Luning - June 16, 2017 - Updated: June 16, 2017

U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, declares he's running for governor of Colorado on Sunday, April 9, 2017, in Golden. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter, an Arvada Democrat, declares he’s running for governor of Colorado on Sunday, April 9, 2017, in Golden. (Photo by Ernest Luning/The Colorado Statesman)

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.


Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning

Ernest Luning is a political correspondent for Colorado Politics. He has covered politics and government for newspapers and online news sites in Colorado for more than 25 years, including at the Highlands Ranch Herald, the Jefferson Sentinels chain of community newspapers and the Aurora Sentinel, where he was the city hall and cops reporter. After editing the Aurora Daily Sun, he was a political reporter and blogger for The Colorado Independent site. Since 2009, he has been the senior political reporter and occasional editor for The Colorado Statesman.


  • Donald E. L. Johnson

    June 16, 2017 at 2:32 pm

    Democrats are grandstanding when they sue President Trump for owning businesses that are being run by his kids and top executives.

    That makes as much sense as suing our founding father presidents who were farmers and slave owners while they were in office. It makes as much sense as suing the Roosevelts because they were wealthy while in office. Why didn’t they sue Jay Rockefeller when he was in the Senate? Or Speaker Pelosi and wealthy Democrats who are in the House and Senate?

    Maybe all of Perlmutter’s relatives should shut down their businesses, sell their investments and quit their jobs so he doesn’t have conflicts of interest? And how about his conflicts of interests related to the wealthy Democrats who pay for his political campaigns?

    If you can’t win on the issues, sue somebody to distract and con voters.

  • MoreFreedom

    June 16, 2017 at 7:24 pm

    Where was Perlmutter when the Russians were donating millions to the Clinton Foundation and paying the Clintons huge sums for speeches and short meetings? John Podesta was a business partner with the Russian government. And Clinton was signing off on the sale of US uranium reserves to Russians.

    Not a peep from Perlmutter then, but Trump’s dealings (small potatoes to Trump) is a big deal for Perlmutter. Trump actually provides something of value (hotel rooms, ties, etc.) and at competitive prices to the people playing him besides words and government approvals of deals.

  • Shaun

    June 20, 2017 at 8:18 am

    I am pretty sure that once they win this case against Trump they will have the integrity to go after Democrat Secretary Clinton and Bubba under the same law for fleecing foreign leaders across the world for billions in the pay to play scheme to funnel money to the Clinton Foundation and for Bubba to speak. Or are my expectations too high?

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