Speed Reads

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Trump DOJ says Trump businesses can legally deal with foreign governments

The Justice Department on Friday argued a federal judge should dismiss a lawsuit alleging President Trump is violating the Constitution's ban on federal officeholders accepting "emoluments" (gifts or payments) from foreign governments without congressional consent.

"Historical evidence confirms that the Emoluments Clauses were not designed to reach commercial transactions that a President (or other federal official) may engage in as an ordinary citizen through his business enterprises," the DOJ filing said. "Were Plaintiffs' interpretation correct, Presidents from the very beginning of the Republic, including George Washington, would have received prohibited 'emolument.'"

The governments of countries including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Turkey have held official events at Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel, and the Trump Organization more broadly has done other business with entities with ties to foreign states.

The lawsuit was brought by a left-wing watchdog group called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), which claims standing on the grounds that the president's dealings with foreign governments have required the organization to take resources away from ethics concerns it would otherwise monitor. CREW is joined in the suit by a group of restaurants, restaurant workers, and a hotel events scheduler, who argue they have standing because they lose business when foreign governments attempt to "curry favor" with Trump by giving preference to his properties. The DOJ maintains neither claim of standing should hold up in court.