ABOUT 200 Democratic Senators and Representatives sued US President Donald Trump yesterday for allegedly violating the country’s constitution by taking payouts from abroad.
Gifts or payments to the president from foreign states are restricted under the US constitution, which says that they can only be approved by Congress.
While Mr Trump has turned over the running of his business empire to his sons, he still owns it — meaning he will still benefit from the Trump Organisation’s profits, including from foreign governments.
Since becoming president, the Trump Organisation has secured dozens of potentially lucrative patents and collected fees from lobbyists from Saudi Arabia and other countries using his properties.
The latest lawsuit says that the full scope of foreign payments can’t be known because Mr Trump has refused to release his tax returns.
It follows two other legal bids on similar grounds, one by a private watchdog group and the other by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Other constitutional restrictions block the president from profiting from the US federal and state governments.
But at the very least the Trump Organisation appears to benefit from Mr Trump’s Secret Service bodyguards and the Department of Defence renting out large amounts of space in Trump Tower in New York, the president’s family home.
However, matters may not be clear cut legally as the specific wording of the constitution refers to “emoluments” — a concept that has not been tested in court since the country’s founding.