Democracy 21, joined by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the Campaign Legal Center, today called on the U.S Attorney for the Southern District in New York to take steps to prevent The Trump Organization from receiving any financial benefits from foreign governments that benefit President Trump and do not comply with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.
President Trump’s refusal to give up ownership of The Trump Organization has resulted in any benefits the Trump Organization receives from foreign governments inuring to Trump.
In a letter sent today to U.S Attorney Preet Bharara, the watchdog groups noted that the Trump Organization has its main offices in the Southern District of New York and that Bharara’s office “is the appropriate arm of the Justice Department to conduct an investigation and take appropriate action in this matter.”
The letter also noted testimony of Attorney General Sessions in his confirmation hearings:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions stated that while he was not aware of a federal law that directly charges the Justice Department with enforcing the Emoluments Clause, he recognized that the Justice Department has the responsibility “to ensure that officeholders comply with their constitutional obligations.”
According to Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer, a signer of the letter:
There is a powerful record that President Trump is receiving benefits that do not comply with the Emoluments Clause.
U.S Attorney Preet Bharara and the Southern District office are known for their fierce independence and their willingness to follow the truth wherever it leads. U.S. Attorney Bharara, a Democratic appointee in 2009, has conducted investigations of New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Democratic Mayor Bill De Blasio. It is now incumbent on Bharara to conduct an investigation of The Trump Organization and to take appropriate steps to prevent the organization from serving as a vehicle for President Donald Trump to receive benefits from foreign governments that violate the Emoluments Clause.
According to Norman Eisen, chair of CREW and chief White House ethics lawyer, 2009-2011, and a signer of the letter:
It cannot be the case that any American official can flagrantly violate the Constitution and get away with it. President Trump’s flow of foreign government benefits violate our founding document and implicate other laws as well. As an office long known for its independence and vigor, it is critical for the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District where the Trump Organization is located to investigate this situation and take appropriate action to prevent any violations of the Emoluments Clause.
According to Paul M. Smith, vice president of litigation and strategy for the Campaign Legal Center and a signer of the letter:
The people’s faith in our government can be undermined if the president receives, or even appears to receive, financial benefits from foreign governments. That is exactly why the Founding Fathers drafted the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Given the strong evidence that President Trump’s businesses, which he continues to own, received financial benefits from foreign governments, it is imperative the United States Attorney undertake an investigation to prevent the very harm to our democracy the Constitution sought to prevent.
The letter was also signed by Richard Painter, vice chair of CREW and chief White House ethics lawyer, 2005-2007, and Noah Bookbinder, executive director of CREW.
According to the letter:
There are substantial facts on the public record that indicate the Trump Organization and other Trump business entities – and therefore President Trump through his continuing ownership of those entities – have received payments or other financial benefits from foreign governments in the course of the business operations conducted by the Trump Organization, both in the United States and abroad.
The letter stated:
The Framers recognized the dangers of foreign influence and corruption, even in situations subtler than quid pro quo bribery, and thus created a broad constitutional prophylactic applicable to anything of value given by any foreign government to any officer of the United States.
The letter incorporated by reference and forwarded to U.S. Attorney Bharara, a lawsuit complaint filed on January 23, 2017 by CREW in the case Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Donald J. Trump,No. 17-00458 (S.D.N.Y.). The letter detailed facts regarding foreign payments and benefits to the Trump Organization and related Trump businesses from the complaint and from published reports.
The letter concluded:
The facts set forth in published reports and described above provide multiple examples of the world-wide business enterprises owned by President Trump that are receiving payments and financial benefits from foreign governmental interests that benefit President Trump in his continuing capacity as the owner of the Trump Organization and related Trump business enterprises.
We call on you as the United States Attorney for the jurisdiction where The Trump Organization is located to exercise your responsibility to investigate and take appropriate action to ensure that the Trump Organization and related Trump business enterprises do not receive payments and financial benefits from foreign governments that benefit President Trump and that do not comply with the Emoluments Clause.
Attachments: (2 total)
Group letter to US Attoney calling for investigation Trump Organization Size: 40 kB
CREW Complaint-17-458 Size: 270 kB