A group of ethics attorneys, including Indian American Supreme Court litigator Deepak Gupta, who is working on the case, filed a lawsuit Jan. 23 accusing President Donald Trump of allowing his businesses to accept payments from foreign governments.
The allegation is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Gupta, who has three cases pending before the court, said the lawsuit would allege that the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause forbids payments to Trump’s businesses, according to a New York Times report. It will seek a court order forbidding Trump from accepting such payments, Gupta added.
Such payments, it says, include those from patrons at Trump hotels and golf courses; loans for his office buildings from certain banks controlled by foreign governments; and leases with tenants like the Abu Dhabi tourism office, a government enterprise, the report added.
The case, filed in Manhattan federal court, is part of a wave of litigation expected to be filed against Trump by liberal advocacy groups, according to the Times report.
Such suits are among the few outlets they have to challenge the administration now that Republicans are in control of the government, the report said.
Among the plaintiffs in the case include Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard constitutional scholar; Norman L. Eisen, an Obama administration ethics lawyer; Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at U.C. Irvine; Richard W. Painter, an ethics counsel in the administration of George W. Bush; and Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and former congressional candidate who has been studying and writing about the Emoluments Clause for nearly a decade.
Foreign governments, Teachout said in the report, as well as other ethics experts warn, could rent out rooms in Trump hotels as a way to send a message to the Trump family.
But Andy Grewal, a University of Iowa law school professor, argued in an academic paper published last week that a payment to a hotel owned by the Trump family, like the Trump International Hotel in Washington, would not violate the Emoluments Clause because the money is paid to a corporate entity and not to Trump directly, the Times report noted.
Trump’s son Eric Trump, an executive vice president of the Trump Organization, told the Times Jan. 22 that the company had taken more steps than required by law to avoid any possible legal exposure, such as agreeing to donate any profits collected at Trump-owned hotels that come from foreign government guests to the U.S. Treasury.
“This is purely harassment for political gain,” the younger Trump told the Times.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit is a liberal group known as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which until recently was controlled by David Brock, a Democratic Party operative and fervent supporter of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.
The lawsuit may run into trouble, other legal experts said, given that CREW, as the organization is known, must demonstrate that it would suffer direct and concrete injury to give it standing to sue, the Times said.
Gupta is the founding principal of Gupta Wessler PLLC. He specializes in Supreme Court, appellate, and complex litigation on a wide range of issues including constitutional law, class actions, and consumers’ and workers’ rights. He has also taught courses on public-interest law and appellate advocacy at Georgetown and American universities.