No one should be surprised over the fact that a lawsuit will be filed today accusing Donald Trump of illegal and unconstitutional activities, in particular, his violation of the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. It goes without saying that I hope that the lawsuit is successful and that perhaps under the subpoena powers afforded by litigation, Trump's tax returns and other information he seeks to keep hidden will come to light. The New York Times looks at this welcomed development. Here are highlights:
A team of prominent constitutional scholars, Supreme Court litigators and former White House ethics lawyers intends to file a lawsuit Monday morning alleging that President Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his hotels and other business operations to accept payments from foreign governments.
The lawsuit is among a barrage of legal actions against the Trump administration that have been initiated or are being planned by major liberal advocacy organizations. Such suits are among the few outlets they have to challenge the administration now that Republicans are in control of the government.
In the new case, the lawyers argue that a provision in the Constitution known as the Emoluments Clause amounts to a ban on payments from foreign powers like the ones to Mr. Trump’s companies. They cite fears by the framers of the Constitution that United States officials could be corrupted by gifts or payments.
The suit, which will not seek any monetary damages, will ask a federal court in New York to order Mr. Trump to stop taking payments from foreign government entities. Such payments, it says, include those from patrons at Trump hotels and golf courses, as well as loans for his office buildings from certain banks controlled by foreign governments, and leases with tenants like the Abu Dhabi tourism office, a government enterprise.
The legal team filing the lawsuit includes Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard constitutional scholar; Norman L. Eisen, an Obama administration ethics lawyer; and Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. Among the others are Richard W. Painter, an ethics counsel in the administration of George W. Bush; Mr. Gupta, a Supreme Court litigator who has three cases pending before the court; and Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and former congressional candidate who has been studying and writing about the Emoluments Clause for nearly a decade.
Ms. Teachout said the one place of potential concern is a nation like China, which rents space at Trump Tower in New York and is a major lender to an office building in New York that he controls in part.
Foreign governments, Ms. Teachout and other ethics expert warn, could rent out rooms in Trump hotels as a way to send a message to the Trump family. “If you think other countries are not going to try to leverage relationships with Trump’s companies to influence trade or military policy, that is naïve,” she said.
Mr. Eisen said the legal team intended to use the lawsuit to try to get a copy of Mr. Trump’s federal tax returns, which are needed to properly assess what income or other payments or loans Mr. Trump has received from foreign governments.