PORTLAND, OR – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today held a public rally on the Hatfield Federal Courthouse steps, after joining the largest group of Congressional plaintiffs in history to seek a court order to force President Trump to stop violating the Constitution’s anti-corruption Foreign Emoluments Clause.
“Trump is violating a key anti-corruption clause of the Constitution every day by failing to seek Congressional consent for his ongoing acceptance of gifts and payments from foreign governments. This week, I joined my colleagues in a lawsuit to hold him accountable,” Merkley said. “Today, I stood with my fellow Oregonians on the steps of the federal courthouse to send a message loud and clear: No one is above the law! If Trump won’t comply with the Constitution and put the American people ahead of his personal profit, we will see him in court.”
Merkley is among 196 Members of Congress taking action against the president’s ongoing failure to obtain the consent of Congress before accepting payments, benefits, or gifts from foreign states in violation of one of the Constitution’s critical anti-corruption provisions: the Foreign Emoluments Clause.
The Foreign Emoluments Clause requires that all elected officials, including the president, seek the “consent of the Congress” before receiving any gifts, payments, or benefits from foreign governments. The Constitution’s Framers included such a requirement to protect against foreign influence on U.S. officials, and to ensure that those officials act in the national interest, instead of their own.
“Previous Presidents routinely sought the consent of Congress for everything from medals to horses to honorary citizenship,” said John Devlin, a civil rights lawyer with his own practice in Portland, Devlin Law, P.C. “This lawsuit seeks to force President Trump to follow those same rules by disclosing to the Congress anything of value that he receives from another country.”
Because the president has refused to disclose his business dealings abroad, the full scope of his potential Constitutional violations is unknown. Independent reporting has shown that President Trump has received the following foreign emoluments during his presidency among others:
- Payments from foreign governments housing their officials in rooms or hosting events at Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel after Inauguration Day;
- Entities owned by foreign states paying rent at Trump World Tower in New York City; and
- The Chinese government granting thirty-eight trademarks to the Trump Organization.
While President Trump continues to accept benefits from foreign governments, the plaintiffs in the case say they have no choice but to seek a remedy through the courts.
“To dismiss emoluments as archaic 18th century legalism is to dismiss the foundation of accountability and transparency that ‘We, The People, The Sovereign,’ rely upon. It is to dispense with this experiment in self-government. Failure risks dispensing with democracy altogether,” said Jeff Kidder, an active member of Indivisible Oregon. “Today we stood alongside Senator Merkley and nearly 200 other Members of Congress who filed this lawsuit to say accountability and transparency are NOT optional. Our democracy is NOT dispensable. Even the President of the United States is accountable to our laws — and we’re here to hold him to account.”