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Congressional Democrats Sue Trump


For the second time this week, there is a new lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. This clause requires the president to get permission from Congress before accepting money, gifts or other benefits from foreign countries. Congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland is one of close to 200 Democrats in Congress listed as a plaintiff in this new lawsuit. He is also a constitutional lawyer, and he joins us now on the line. Congressman, welcome to the program.

JAMIE RASKIN: Good morning, Rachel. I'm delighted to.

MARTIN: This lawsuit says President from violated the Constitution because he failed to get consent or permission from Congress before accepting benefits from foreign states. So what benefits are you talking about specifically?

RASKIN: Well, we think it's going on every single day. The president, of course, has a far-flung, global network of businesses, including hotels and golf courses. And there've been numerous reports of foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, lots of governments all over the world, that have been making payments directly to the president - the president's businesses - through the hotels...

MARTIN: That's an important distinction though - right? - not directly to the president, to his businesses, which he says he has distanced himself from.

RASKIN: Well, he still owns them. And that's the key thing because the article in Section 9 is very absolute and clear. It says that nobody who's holding any office of profit or trust in the United States - and that includes the president - shall without the consent of Congress except any presents, emolument, office or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state. And the founders of the country were adamant that our presidents not be corrupted and compromised by payments from foreign governments.

MARTIN: So the issue with these emoluments cases - and there have been two others - is to - is to prove you have standing to sue. That's what can hold these suits back. So what is your standing? What harm have you and the other lawmakers suffered as a result of this?

RASKIN: Well, Congress has not consented to the president accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars in payments from foreign governments, and the president has refused to come to Congress to report what the payments are precisely and to ask for our consent. So...

MARTIN: So you're saying you have been denied the ability to weigh in on this, and that's the harm?

RASKIN: Yes, as a matter of process, we've been injured because we've not been able to render our consent or our refusal to permit these presents. And then the people of the United States, who we represent, are being injured on a daily basis by virtue of the president's loyalties being compromised because of foreign government payments coming in.

I mean, you can think about the president's recent trip to Saudi Arabia, where he said he was going to not get into the question of human rights and the condition of people who actually live in Saudi Arabia. That takes place in context in which the president's been collecting a lot of money from the Saudi Arabian government and its agents here in the United States.

MARTIN: On this one issue though, when you talk about hotels - I understand there are a whole range of issues here - but specifically the Trump Hotel. The agency that oversees the lease on that hotel, the General Services Administration, has said the Trump Organization is in full compliance with that lease because the asset has been moved into a trust. So on that, doesn't it weaken your case?

RASKIN: Well, there's two problems there. One is the president of United States appoints the GSA director, who made that ruling. So the president is essentially both the landlord, in terms of running the federal government, and he's also the tenant by virtue of owning the Trump Organization and collecting money from it. So it's a complete conflict of interest, precisely the kind of conflict of interest that was contemplated...


RASKIN: ...By the founders.

MARTIN: We'll have to leave it there. Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat from Maryland. Thank you so much.

RASKIN: Totally my pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF PETE ROCK'S "THE BEST SECRET") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.