Trump DOJ says Trump businesses can legally deal with foreign governments

Trump's Justice Department fires back on claim he violated the Constitution

George Washington did it, so Donald Trump can too.

Payments to Trump hotels and restaurants from foreign officials, trademarks granted to Trump brands by China, and royalties from foreign state broadcasters also amount to breaches of the clause, according to Crew, whose lawsuit is joined by businesses who claim to be Trump's competitors.

The government claimed that if the Emoluments Clause - a section of the Constitution that bars members of the government from receiving such payments or gifts from foreign governments without congressional approval - is interpreted to mean that Trump can not accept such payments at his hotels, golf course, and other venues, that reading would mean even the nation's first president, George Washington, would have been found in violation. Lin argues that they also lack standing because alleging that they have lost or will lose business from foreign and domestic government leaders to companies owned by Trump is speculative at best.

"Had the Framers intended the Emoluments Clauses to encompass benefits arising from a federal official's private commercial transactions with a foreign state, or in case of a President, with a foreign, federal, or state instrumentality, surely someone would have raised concerns about whether foreign governments or government-owned corporations may have been among the customers of the farm and other products regularly exported by early Presidents", the court doc said.

"Neither the text nor the history of the clauses shows that they were meant 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", the DOJ said in the recent court filing. "Were plaintiffs" interpretation correct, presidents from the very beginning of the Republic, including George Washington, would have received prohibited "emoluments'".

In papers filed in Manhattan federal court, the government said none of the plaintiffs had suffered an injury that would give them standing to sue. Furthermore, the Justice Department claims, the proposed injunction would violate the separation of powers, since dealing with the suit would impede the president's ability to perform his duties, and such an impairment can not be forced upon one branch of the government by another. They need that in order to have standing to sue in federal court. The group has said Trump should liquidate his business holdings and put the proceeds in a blind trust.

The Emoluments Clause bars presidents from taking money from foreign governments.

The Justice Department doesn't see it that way.

Trump announced in January 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 pledged not to make any business deals outside of the US while Trump was still President. Critics including CREW, members of Congress and the director of the federal Office of Government Ethics said the plan failed to address conflicts of interest between Trump's roles as president and as a billionaire businessman. "There have been many presidents before him".

Countries like Saudi Arabia and Turkey have already paid for state-sponsored events at Trump's Washington D.C. hotel since he became president, and right after Trump was elected, some foreign diplomats seemed to wholeheartedly believe that shifting their business to Trump properties would be beneficial to them in their future dealings with the Trump administration.

The lawsuit alleges that Trump's arrangements present a "grave threat to the United States and its citizens", by "creating countless conflicts of interest, as well as unprecedented influence by foreign governments". It also said the relief sought by the plaintiffs is unconstitutional.

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