Remember last week when 200 Congressional Democrats filed a federal lawsuit alleging that President Donald Trump has been profiting from business dealings with foreign governments in violation of the Constitution? Well, North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman was one of them.
In a Facebook post, Huffman explained that the lawsuit stems in part from Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns and “flouting basic standards of ethics and transparency.
“This lawsuit, in which I’m one of the plaintiffs, has a good chance of forcing disclosures that will reveal the extent of his financial obligations and conflicts of interest,” Huffman wrote. “It’s unfortunate that President Trump broke his promise to disclose his tax returns voluntarily, and also broke his promise to create a blind trust to prevent conflicts. Those broken promises, and the GOP Congress’ refusal to step up and do meaningful oversight, are why this lawsuit is necessary.”
The lawsuit alleges that Trump has violated a constitutional clause prohibiting federal officials from accepting gifts — or emoluments — from foreign powers without congressional approval and accuses the president of illegally profiting from his businesses, which collect payments from foreign diplomats staying at Trump hotels. The suit also alleges that accepting trademarks from foreign governments for his businesses is a violation of the clause.
This is the third lawsuit to be filed against Trump under the “emoluments” clause, following suits brought by private hotel owners and attorneys general in Maryland and the District of Columbia. A key question in each of the suits is whether the plaintiffs have adequate standing — or have been sufficiently harmed by the alleged actions — to bring suit against the president. In a comment on Facebook, Huffman, who spent 15 years as a practicing attorney before running for elected office, said he believes members of Congress have the requisite standing.
“The foreign emoluments clause specifically gives Congress authority to approve any emoluments accepted by a Pres.,” Huffman wrote. “We have unique standing.”
Justice Department attorneys have yet to respond to the suit but have argued in response to the previous filings that the framers of the Constitution never meant to forbid the president from owning a business or banning it from doing typical commercial transactions.
The lawsuit features 196 members of Congress — all Democrats — as plaintiffs.