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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Sunday, September 24, 2017

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Accused of emoluments clause violations, Justice Department argues

Trump can accept foreign government payments

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - A Watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has alleged that Trump's business dealings run afoul of the Constitution and sued the President within days of his inauguration in January this year.> BNN
However, now the Justice Department, arguing that Trump can take payments from foreign governments, is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit filed by several plaintiffs.
CREW had alleged that foreign diplomats and officials could seek to curry favor with Trump by patronizing Trump-connected businesses.
In a press release then, CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder had stated, “We did not want to get to this point. It was our hope that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office. He did not. His constitutional violations are immediate and serious, so we were forced to take legal action.”
The group is seeking an order from U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams in Manhattan that Trump is violating the foreign emoluments clause and the domestic emoluments clause, which specifically bars presidents from taking payments from federal or state officials.
The government pointed out that Trump isn’t violating the U.S. Constitution by accepting payments for goods and services from foreign governments without congressional approval since the emoluments clause doesn’t bar Trump businesses.
More importantly, since George Washington did it, so can Donald Trump.
In a filing on Friday, the Justice Department argued that the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution doesn’t apply to fair-market commercial transactions, such as hotel bills, golf club fees, licensing payments and office rent. 
The Justice Department said in a memorandum, “Plaintiffs read these Emolument Clauses expansively to cover any benefit derived from any business dealings with a foreign, federal, or state instrumentality by an entity in which the President has a financial interest.”
The government added in the filing, “Neither the text nor the history of the clauses shows that they were intended to reach benefits arising from a president’s private business pursuits having nothing to do with his office or personal service to a foreign power. Were plaintiffs’ interpretation correct, presidents from the very beginning of the Republic, including George Washington, would have received prohibited ‘emoluments.’”
The emoluments clause, a constitutional law that prohibits federal officials from accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments without approval from Congress, has been a subject of contention since before Trump took office.
Trump’s business empire is at the centre of these debates and watchdogs and critics have stated that these would entangle Trump in a web of conflicts of interest as president.
Trump had, however, promised before he took office that his businesses would annually donate its profits received from foreign customers at his hotels to the U.S. Treasury Department. 
Earlier this year, the Trump Organization said that the first such donation would come in March 2018.
In January, Trump announced he would turn over operation of his businesses to his sons, Eric and Donald Jr., and Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg.
The Trump Organization also vowed not to make any new business deals outside the U.S. while Trump is president. 
The DOJ now argues that the Republican-controlled Congress, not the courts, should decide whether Trump is violating the emoluments clause.
The Justice Department has also argued that CREW and the other plaintiffs in the case lack legal standing.
Further claiming that it would be unconstitutional for a judge to issue an injunction against the president in his official capacity.
CREW however said in a statement, “It’s clear from the government’s response that they don’t believe anyone can go to court to stop the president from systematically violating the constitution. We heartily disagree and look forward to our day in court."
CREW is also seeking access to Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of the lawsuit. 
The group has said Trump should liquidate his business holdings and put the proceeds in a blind trust.
Meanwhile, most lawyers, including Trump’s, agree that the foreign emoluments clause does apply to presidents.
The CREW suit was filed by legal scholars and former White House ethics officials, including Richard Painter, ethics adviser to President George W. Bush; Harvard Law School professor Laurence Tribe; Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine; and Supreme Court litigator Deepak Gupta.
If accepted by the court, the argument would eliminate a major legal obstacle for Trump’s businesses to keep money from foreign officials and companies owned by foreign governments.

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