Nearly 200 members of the House and Senate – including four Indian American lawmakers – filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump June 14, alleging that he continues to profit from his vast business empire while at the White House, in violation of the Constitution.
The Indian American lawmakers who have signed on to the suit are Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Reps. Pramila Jayapal, D-Washington; Ro Khanna, D-Calif., and Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who identifies as Hindu, is also a plaintiff in the suit.
The lawsuit states that Trump is violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which was “designed to ensure that our nation’s leaders would not be corrupted by foreign influence or put their own financial interests over the national interest.”
“Through this measure, the nation’s founders invested members of Congress with an important role in preventing the corruption and foreign influence that the founders sought to avoid — permitting federal officeholders to accept otherwise prohibited ‘Emoluments’ only if they first received the Consent of the Congress,” states the lawsuit.
The president is violating the emoluments clause by accepting payments from foreign governments without the approval of Congress, states the lawsuit. “Trump has a financial interest in vast business holdings around the world that engage in dealings with foreign governments and receive benefits from those governments. By virtue of that financial interest, Defendant has accepted, or necessarily will accept Emoluments from ‘foreign State[s]’ while holding the office of President of the United States,” notes the lawsuit.
“Trump has refused to divest from his businesses and instead continues to accept financial payments and other benefits from foreign states through his many business entities without first obtaining the consent of Congress,” states the lawsuit.
The suit noted that Trump was – in part or in whole – the owner of 500 different entities in at least 20 foreign countries, including a number of shell companies.
The suit alleges that Trump told his personal attorney that he will continue to profit from his business enterprises while in office. It chides the president for not releasing his tax returns, which would allow the public to fully determine the scope of the emoluments he is reportedly receiving.
“Plaintiffs are unable to exercise their constitutional prerogative to authorize or reject the specific emoluments he is accepting,” stated the lawsuit, referring to Trump’s alleged failure to seek approval from Congress before accepting the payments.
Jayapal on June 20 tweeted a photo of the portion of the Constitution referring to the emoluments clause, stating: “This part of the Constitution right here? The president is flagrantly violating it. We're suing him.”
Khanna and Gabbard tweeted that they had joined the lawsuit.