US President Donald Trump (L) shakes hands with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang during a meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on November 9, 2017. (Photo: Thomas Peter / AFP / Getty Images)
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The government watchdog group that has previously sued President Donald Trump over alleged ethics violations sharpened its focus this week on a billion-dollar development project involving the Trump Organization that is being partially financed by the Chinese government -- calling it a clear violation of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause.
Norm Eisen, board chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), warned the president, "See you in court" over reports of Trump's latest constitutional violation.
This is a violation of the Emoluments Clause. A big one. See you in court Mr. Trump https://t.co/JuSmCYChyh
-- Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) May 14, 2018
A billion-dollar resort project being developed in Indonesia by the president's business empire, the Trump Organization, is to receive $500 million from the Chinese government. The president's company has been involved in the project since 2015, according to the South China Morning Post.
After winning the 2016 election, Trump refused to fully divest from his real estate business, choosing instead to place the company in the control of his two eldest sons. He still receives reports on the organization's holdings and business dealings, and is able to withdraw funds from Trump Organization accounts at any time.
Trump's continued involvement with his business empire has resulted in multiple violations of the Emoluments Clause, argues CREW. The group has sued him for illegally taking payments from foreign heads of state as well as state governors, as many international and American politicians have stayed at Trump's hotels, dined at his restaurants, and held events at his resorts since he became president.
"Diplomats openly claim that they patronize the President's hotels to curry favor with him as President -- a blatant violation on any reading," wrote CREW last year in its response to the Justice Department's motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
On Monday, the White House Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah refused to answer questions on the subject or explain the administration's position on the deal during a press briefing when Los Angeles Times reporter Noah Bierman asked pointedly about Trump's involvement in a major project funded largely by the Chinese government -- and how one could argue that the project does not violate the emoluments clause.
Shah dodged the question, suggesting that the Trump Organization is entirely separate from Trump's presidency.
The White House cannot explain how the Trump Organization’s involvement in a project in Indonesia partially financed by the Chinese gov't adheres to the emoluments clause and Trump’s personal promise not to pursue new foreign business deals as president. https://t.co/oewgyXVOdH
-- Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) May 15, 2018