Justice Department attorneys believe President Trump should be legally allowed to profit from foreign government officials during his presidency.
DOJ lawyers were arguing Monday to fight a lawsuit that accused Trump of using his businesses to violate constitutional laws that prevent elected officials from accepting gifts from foreign governments, BuzzFeed News reports. Foreign officials have said that they would visit Trump's hotels and various businesses to curry favor with the president, but Justice Department lawyers said that their intent wasn't important in determining whether the act was a bribe, so long as Trump didn't explicitly agree to give those foreign officials something in return.
The lawsuit, filed in Maryland, claims that Trump is violating the Constitution's foreign and domestic Emoluments Clauses, which state that no U.S. official "shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State," nor should they receive any other benefit from U.S. entities other than their salary.
But attorneys said that the federal judge should take a broader view of the clause, given that many presidents have "profited" from outside entities, both figuratively and literally, while in office. The profit Trump earns from foreign officials who visit his various hotels and golf resorts don't amount to a bribe, argued DOJ lawyers, because there was no "corrupt intent" and because it's hard to prove that Trump's foreign policy decisions are influenced by his business holdings.
Attorney Stephanie Litos argued against these claims, saying that "no one should have to doubt whether the president's actions are being taken to further his own bottom line or further the interests of the United States of America." Read more at BuzzFeed News. Summer Meza