0317 GMT April 19, 2018
In a filing in Manhattan federal court on Friday, DOJ lawyers contended that the plaintiffs in the case do not have legal standing to sue the government.
"Plaintiffs' broad-brush claims effectively assert that the Constitution disqualifies the president from serving as president while maintaining ownership interests in his commercial businesses," the department said in its court filing.
The plaintiffs include the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United Inc., and two individuals.
Government lawyers argued that the emolument clause of the US Constitution, which bars federal officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments, does not apply to “fair value exchanges” like payments for hotel rooms and golf club fees.
They further said Congress, not the court system, should decide whether Trump is in violation of the emoluments clause.
The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit in January, during Trump’s first week in office, to stop President Trump from “illegally receiving payments from foreign governments" by maintaining ownership over his business empire.
"We did not want to get to this point. It was our hope that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office," Noah Bookbinder, CREW executive director, said at the time.
Meanwhile, a lawyer representing the plaintiffs said the lawsuit has proper legal standing in part because some of the plaintiffs compete with Trump’s hotels and restaurants for business from foreign governments.
“This is about whether the president is loyal to the American people and the American people alone,” Deepak Gupta said. “There have been many presidents before him. No president has had the kind of business entanglement with foreign governments like Donald Trump.”
The lawsuit said competing businesses are injured when foreign governments try to "curry favor" with President Trump.