More than 190 Democratic members of Congress have filed a federal lawsuit against President Donald Trump, accusing him of violating the U.S. Constitution by accepting money from foreign governments through his business empire.
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who led the filing in federal district court, said 196 Democrats have already signed onto the lawsuit -- the most to ever sue an American president. He added that while no Republicans have agreed to participate yet, they are welcome to do so.
In their legal complaint, the plaintiffs state they have a duty to call attention to the matter because, according to the Constitution's foreign emoluments clause, the president must get "the consent of Congress" before accepting any gifts or money from foreign entities.
"The president’s failure to tell us about these emoluments, to disclose the payments and benefits that he is receiving, mean that we cannot do our job," Blumenthal said on June 13, according to Reuters. "We cannot consent to what we don’t know."
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Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan accused Trump of using the office of the presidency to enrich himself.
"President Trump has conflicts of interest in at least 25 countries, and it appears he’s using his presidency to maximize his profits," Conyers stated.
The lawsuit is one of several alleging Trump's ongoing ties to his business empire open the door for corruption and put him in violation of the Constitution.
Legal experts are split on whether the congressional lawsuit will be successful.
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Erwin Chemerinsky, incoming dean of the law school at the University of California at Berkeley, said the plaintiffs have a case.
"The framers of our Constitution gave members of Congress the responsibility to protect our democracy from foreign corruption by determining which benefits the president can and cannot receive from a foreign state," he explained, according to The Washington Post.
"When the president refuses to reveal which benefits he is receiving -- much less obtain congressional consent before accepting them -- he robs these members of their ability to perform their constitutional role," Chemerinsky added. "Congressional lawmakers ... have a duty to preserve the constitutional order in the only way they can: by asking the courts to make the president obey the law."
Andy Grewal, a professor of law at the University of Iowa, was less optimistic about the lawsuit's chances, explaining that legislators can typically only sue when they have suffered individual injury.
"Because this is individual legislators who don’t have any individual injuries, it will be hard for them to get standing," he said.
The foreign emoluments clause appears in Article I of the Constitution and states: "[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], 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."
The White House has not responded to the congressional suit but has repeatedly denied that Trump's business interests represent a violation of the Constitution.