Donald J. Trump was accustomed to being sued in the course of building his vast hotel empire. But on Inauguration Day, now President Trump was greeted with two new lawsuits, one involving his possible conflicts of interest in the leased Trump International Hotel in Washington and another related to earlier efforts by his transition team to gain information on federal employees working on climate change programs.
The difference between suits past and present is that Trump is now the boss of the agencies controlling the documents being sought.
The American Civil Liberties Union on Friday announced that it had just filed “its first legal action against the Trump administration.” It lodged a Freedom of Information Act request with the Office of Government Ethics, the General Services Administration, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel and the Office of Personnel Management.
The group seeks “key documents concerning Trump’s conflicts of interest,” nine days after Trump used a widely watched press conference to announce his plan to put his companies into a trust that will be run by his adult children.
The ACLU argues that Trump “failed to provide detailed answers concerning how he intends to address the looming conflicts in order to assure the American public that his oath, duties and sympathies will not be at risk of compromise during his presidency.”
Also on Friday, the nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released a legal statement and announced a legal filing. One is a broad accusation that Trump “stands in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause,” said Executive Director Noh Bookbinder. “He just swore on the Bible to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,’ but by continuing to accept payments from foreign governments, he has already failed,” he said. Trump has also “failed to clear the ethical bar of Richard Nixon and release his tax returns, much of his foreign business has remained secret.”
More specifically, CREW sent a letter to outgoing GSA Administrator Denise Turner Roth saying Trump “appears to be in violation of his lease on the Old Post Office—site of the Trump International Hotel. ... The lease bars elected government officials from receiving ‘any share or part of [the lease], or to any benefit that may arise therefrom,’” CREW noted in a statement. “We know Trump likes to renegotiate contracts for better deals. If that happened here, it will be the president negotiating against the government he leads. His best interests are not the same as those of the American taxpayer.”
Finally, CREW filed a suit against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, through its parent Commerce Department, seeking injunctive relief for the agency’s “failing to turn over information about possible questionnaires from Trump’s transition team seeking names of those working on climate change.” The group had earlier requested such information under FOIA.