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Conyers: Nearly 200 Democrats Suing Trump Not 'Out of Any Sense of Partisanship'

Supporters listen to Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on the steps of the Mark O. Hatfield Federal Courthouse in Portland on June 16, 2017, after he joined the congressional lawsuit against President Trump. (Alex Milan Tracy/Sipa via AP Images)

WASHINGTON – Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) charged on Tuesday that President Trump has “concealed” information from Congress regarding foreign payments he has received for his properties and other business ventures.

Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, argued that Trump is not complying with a provision of the U.S. Constitution that requires him to obtain consent from Congress before accepting any foreign payments.

“We can thank the press. For example, USA Today recently revealed that 70 percent of the buyers of Trump properties in the last 12 months have been limited liability companies that can hide their owners. So the bottom line is we have no clue as to most of the investors and partners of Donald Trump around the world,” Blumenthal said during a Capitol Hill press conference.

“We have no accurate and complete knowledge about all those payments and benefits because he has made no disclosure. The Constitution of the United States says Congress must consent. We cannot consent to what we don’t know. We cannot consent to what Donald Trump has concealed and he owes the Congress that disclosure,” he added.

Blumenthal and a large group of congressional Democrats are suing Trump for alleged violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which states, “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

Blumenthal said the lawmakers have a “responsibility to bring this lawsuit” because it’s one of the “main ways” to “prevent corruption” as the Founding Fathers intended.

“The American people have a right to know that when the president of the United States sends troops into harm’s way or concludes trade agreements that he is putting the national interest before his own self-interest, that our country’s interest is put before his personal financial interest. And this Emoluments Clause was the premiere anti-corruption provision of the Constitution and it is the major provision of our law to fight corruption,” he said.

“Our plea to the courts is enforce the Constitution against the president, compel him to obey the Emoluments Clause to prevent corruption and undue foreign influence as the Founders foresaw would be necessary,” he added.

House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.) said the coalition of Democrats joining the lawsuit stands at 196 but it’s still growing.

“This is the greatest number of plaintiffs of any single lawsuit against a president in our nation’s history. Since we filed the lawsuit, three more House Democrats, I’m told, have joined and we’ve invited our Republican colleagues to come with us. We don’t do this out of any sense of partisanship but because President Trump has left us absolutely no other option,” Conyers said. “This is not a complex legal matter. It is not an issue over which there is disagreement or the interpretation is in different areas.”

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said complying with the Constitution is “not optional” for a president.

“The American people and our constitutional form of government deserve a president who acts solely in the public interest, not his own personal interest,” he said at the news conference.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) criticized Trump for hosting foreign dignitaries at the Trump International Hotel in D.C. and receiving “valuable trademarks” from China.

“Donald Trump has put a for-sale sign around the presidency, around his administration and around his decision-making,” he said. “Foreign governments know there is a clear avenue to put money directly in the pocket of the president. It is not only fair but critically important for our nation to ask the question: What is the influence on the president?”

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M) said one of the reasons Democrats question Trump’s decisions is his “unknown business interests.”

“The Founders knew our country could not survive if the president used his public office for private gain,” Udall said at the press conference. “They feared that if the president was allowed to accept benefits from a foreign government, the American people could not trust he was making decisions in their best interest. Fortunately, throughout our history this has rarely been a problem but, as with many things, President Trump has taken us into uncharted territory.”

Udall added, “Today, because of his continued and unknown business interests, we don’t know what motivates President’s Trump’s decision-making.”

The Constitution Accountability Center worked with the Democratic lawmakers on the lawsuit.