The top House Democrat on foreign affairs announced Tuesday that he’s instructed his staff to tell all foreign officials not to do business with President Trump’s businesses, saying it is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The guidance went out to all Democratic staffers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and came from Chairman Eliot Engel.”When meeting with officials from a foreign government, please inform them that by providing any form of payment or benefit to a Trump-owned property their government is facilitating the president’s apparent violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause,” Mr. Engel wrote in a memo to his staff.
He said those officials should consider the warning a “cease and desist” directive.
The aggressive move is striking, particularly from the usually gentlemanly Mr. Engel. It comes as rank-and-file Democrats are seeking more confrontation with Mr. Trump.
Several lawsuits have been filed over Mr. Trump’s continued ties to his business empire, saying that foreign governments paying for bar tabs or room rentals at Trump hotels amount to “emoluments” that, under the Constitution, are illegal unless approved by Congress.
One of those lawsuits, brought by Maryland and the District of Columbia, has been tossed by a judge who ruled the challengers didn’t have standing.
Another lawsuit brought by Democrats on Capitol Hill has been allowed to proceed, though the judge in that case has not ruled Mr. Trump is violating the Constitution.
The emoluments clause was intended to prevent corruption of a president by a foreign power.
Democrats say Mr. Trump’s decision-making could be swayed by a foreign government choosing to do business at his hotels.
Mr. Engel said Mr. Trump, perhaps the richest person ever to win the White House, could have avoided the problem by placing his assets in a blind trust. Instead he remains an owner, though he said he’s turned day-to-day operations over to his sons.
Speaking to an audience in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, Mr. Trump said he’s not enriching himself in the White House. In fact, he said, he’s losing money.
“This thing is costing me a fortune being president. Somebody said, ‘oh he might have rented a room to a man from Saudi Arabia for $500.’ What about the $5 billion I’ll lose?” the president said.
He called the lawsuits “presidential harassment.”
– Dave Boyer contributed to this article.
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