On Monday, President Donald Trump called the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution “phony,” even though there are three active emoluments-related federal lawsuits against him alleging that he is illicitly profiting of off his office. On Tuesday, a federal court set a hearing in one of those cases, meaning two of the cases will be heard in the same week this coming December. On Wednesday, the official Trump Hotels Twitter account touted the proximity of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. to the White House and Capitol Hill.
“Perfectly poised between Capitol Hill and the White House, Washington’s Old Post Office is once again one of the city’s most iconic buildings @TrumpDC,” the tweet said.
The tweet promptly garnered attention on Twitter from attorney Walter Shaub, who previously worked as director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) during Barack Obama’s presidency.
“The definitely-firewalled-off Trump hotel is citing its proximity to the definitely-not-corrupt White House, whose super-ethical-chief-occupant profits from its business dealings with foreign governments and other influence-seekers who definitely have our best interests at heart,” Shaub wrote sarcastically.
Shaub resigned from his post in July 2017, as NPR noted at the time, due to “clashes with the White House over issues such as President Trump’s refusal to divest his businesses and the administration’s delay in disclosing ethics waivers for appointees.” He went on to join Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a government ethics watchdog, as a senior advisor.
CREW so happens to have filed a lawsuit on behalf of high-end hospitality business plaintiffs, who allege that they have been harmed by the president unlawfully profiting off of his office, as “foreign and domestic government clientele” keep patronizing Trump properties. The president’s property in D.C. is one the plaintiffs have taken issue with:
The Plaintiff establishments cater to foreign and domestic government clientele, and allege that they are direct competitors of hospitality properties owned by the President in Washington D.C. and New York City. The complaint alleges that President Trump, operating through corporations, limited‐liability companies, limited partnerships, and other business structures, is effectively the sole owner of restaurants, hotels, and event spaces, which are patronized by foreign and domestic government clientele. President has announced that, since assuming office, he has turned over day‐to‐day management of his business empire to his children and established a trust to hold his business assets. However, he maintains sole ownership, receives business updates at least quarterly, and has the ability to obtain distributions from the trust at any time.
Although their lawsuit was dismissed in Dec. 2017, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit brought that suit back to life on Sept. 13.
Law&Crime reached out to CREW for comment about @TrumpHotels Wednesday tweet. CREW’s Communications Director Jordan Libowitz responded with the following statement:
The Trump Hotel DC is the nexus of corruption and conflict of interest in the Trump administration. That the business the president still owns is highlighting its proximity to Capitol Hill and the White House just goes to show that influencing the government is part of their business model.
The Emoluments Clause was thrust back into the news cycle last week when acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney publicly defended holding the 2020 G-7 at Trump National Doral. Over the weekend, President Trump decided to reverse course on that, blaming the pressure applied by the “irrational” media and Democrats.
[Image via Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images]
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