U.S. Legal Watchdog to File Lawsuit Against Donald Trump Over Foreign Payments

President Donald Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a swearing in ceremony of White House senior staff in the East Room of the White House in Washington DC, January 22. Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty

A group of American lawyers and researchers said it will file a lawsuit alleging that U.S. President Donald Trump is violating the constitution by illegally accepting payments from foreign governments.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which describes itself as a non-profit legal watchdog group that aims to hold public officials accountable for their actions, said it would file a lawsuit detailing the claims in New York first thing Monday morning.

Related: Why Donald Trump May Get Away With Flouting the Constitution's Gifts Clause

The group alleges that Trump, via his hotel empire, is in violation of the constitution's clause on emoluments, which says the president should not receive payments from foreign governments or businesses owned by foreign governments without the approval of Congress.

"Since Trump refused to divest from his businesses, he is now getting cash and favors from foreign governments, through guests and events at his hotels, leases in his buildings, and valuable real estate deals abroad," a statement on CREW's website claimed. "Trump does business with countries like China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines, and now that he is president, his company's acceptance of any benefits from the governments of those countries violates the Constitution.

"When Trump the president sits down to negotiate trade deals with these countries, the American people will have no way of knowing whether he will also be thinking about the profits of Trump the businessman."

Trump's lawyers said at a news conference on January 11 they believed that transactions at hotels would not be considered emoluments. Trump's son, Eric Trump, who is an executive vice-president of the Trump Organization, said the claims were "harassment for political gain," and that the company had taken greater steps than were required to avoid legal exposure, including donating any profits from foreign-government guests to the U.S. treasury, according to The New York Times.