Eliot Engel warns foreign officials: Stop spending money at Trump properties

Eliot Engel and Jerrold Nadler

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, left, accused President Donald Trump of violating the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution. | J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel directed his aides on Tuesday to warn foreign officials that they are “facilitating” President Donald Trump’s alleged emoluments violations by spending money at properties owned by Trump’s sprawling business empire.

In a new memorandum to his staff, Engel accused Trump of violating the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution — which bars presidents from accepting funds from foreign governments — and the New York Democrat told his staff to ask foreign officials to stop spending money at Trump-owned properties.

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“When meeting with officials from a foreign government, please inform them that by providing any form of payment or benefit to a Trump-owned property their government is facilitating the president’s apparent violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause,” Engel wrote to aides. “Please urge those foreign officials to transmit to their governments that the House Foreign Affairs Committee requests that they cease and desist payments to the Trump Organization unless and until Congress approves the emolument, as provided in the Constitution.”

Democrats have long raised concerns that foreign governments are trying to curry favor with the president by spending money at his hotels and golf clubs around the world.

Multiple House committees are investigating potential emoluments violations by the president, and the Foreign Affairs Committee has spearheaded efforts to look into whether Trump is improperly profiting from the presidency.

In April, a federal judge allowed an emoluments case brought by congressional Democrats to proceed. Engel mentioned that litigation in his memorandum, noting that 30 senators and more than 150 House members have signed onto the suit.

Earlier this year, the General Services Administration’s internal watchdog said government lawyers ignored emoluments concerns when they re-approved the Trump Organization’s lease of the Old Post Office building in Washington, which is currently outfitted as a Trump International Hotel. The agency’s inspector general said all of the lawyers acknowledged possible emoluments violations but failed to take them into account when moving to allow the Trump Organization to maintain its lease on the historic building.