A lawsuit against President Trump was expanded Tuesday to include more plaintiffs. The accusation is that the president is violating the Constitution by letting his restaurants and hotels accept payments from foreign governments – which allegedly hurts the competition.
The amended complaint was filed in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan and says because Trump maintains ownership over his business empire, he is in violation of the Constitution’s “emoluments” clause, which prohibits him from taking certain gifts from foreign governments without approval from Congress.
The suit was originally filed by the nonprofit watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington on Jan. 23, to which Trump responded it had no merit as the group itself was not harmed by Trump.
The new complaint includes new plaintiffs, such as Restaurant Opportunities Centers (ROC) United Inc, a restaurant trade group that represents over 200 restaurants and almost 25,000 workers. ROC claims its members have “improperly” lost business, wages, and tips due to Trump’s competition.
The other new plaintiff, Jill Phaneuf books hospitality events in hotels near Washington, D.C.’s “Embassy Row,” which house foreign diplomats. She claims that Trump has cost her commissions.
The lawsuit says these plaintiffs are harmed when foreign governments aim to “curry favor” with the president by giving preference to his businesses.
It also claims these practices have occurred since Trump took office, pointing to when China granted him trademark rights when he promised to honor the “One China” policy established by the Obama administration.
The complaint reads, “When asked why defendant changed his position on the One China policy, and whether he had gotten something in exchange from China, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer answered: ‘The President always gets something.'”
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California at Irvine’s law school and a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, said the goal of the lawsuit is to “uphold one of the most basic aspects of the rule of law: no one, including the president, is above the law.”
The litigation is being overseen by U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams, who was appointed by former President Obama.
Spokesmen for the U.S. Department of Justice have not yet responded to requests for comment. President Trump is expected to respond by April 21.
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