We speak with Congressmember Keith Ellison, who is among nearly 200 Democratic lawmakers who are suing President Donald Trump, accusing him of violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by accepting millions of dollars in payments from foreign governments to his companies while serving as U.S. president. The suit alleges that Trump accepted foreign payments which benefit him directly, without first obtaining consent from Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressman—
REP. KEITH ELLISON: But, of course—
AMY GOODMAN: We only have a few minutes, and I want to get to a number of topics. You and nearly 200 Democratic congressmembers are suing President Trump, accusing him of violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by accepting millions of dollars—
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Right.
AMY GOODMAN: —in payments from foreign governments to his companies while serving as president. Explain, and what you hope to gain from this and whether you think any Republicans will join you in this lawsuit.
REP. KEITH ELLISON: Well, we are looking for our constitutional conservatives out there, right? They like to tout themselves as that. It would be nice to have one nowadays. The Constitution of the United States [states] that the president, nor any federal officer, can receive payments from a foreign government. The root of this idea is that, you know, we want the American government to work for the American people. And it also has, in a provision, that you can do it, if Congress approves of it. But Congress has not been presented with any request to approve the president receiving an emolument.
And what are the emoluments we’re talking about? Well, let’s just start with the fact that he owns a bunch of golf courses. Foreign nationals can take out memberships to the tune of—I don’t know—several hundred thousand dollars, pay, you know, annual dues in the form of about $25,000. And those things go straight into his personal accounts. They are—that’s money that goes straight to him. And so—and then there’s other things. If anybody goes to stay a night in his hotel, I mean, that’s—he is essentially receiving payments from foreign sources, which he’s not entitled to do unless he gets permission from Congress, which he has not got. So, he’s violating the Constitution. And he was violating it on day one. When he put his hand up, he was—and swore that oath to protect and defend the American people, he was in violation. And he needs to be held accountable.