Donald Trump is using government-funded lawyers to defend his practice of accepting foreign influence money through his hotels and other businesses.
Donald Trump is using taxpayer-funded government lawyers to defend his practice of accepting money from foreign entities through his hotels and other companies.
There are at least 10 lawyers working on these cases, with salaries ranging from $133,000 to $185,000.
USA Today reports that there are four cases being litigated because Trump has refused to divest his holdings or disconnect himself from the Trump Organization.
The paper also revealed that the Justice Department, led by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, tried to hide this arrangement. The department would not answer inquiries, and the connections were made only after a Freedom of Information Act request was filed and fulfilled.
Stuart Gerson, who served as head of the Justice Department's civil division under Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, told USA Today, "I can’t think of a precedent where another civil division lawyer has been called on to defend the president under these circumstances."
Previous presidents addressed ethics concerns by erecting a wall of separation between themselves and outside businesses. Trump chose from the beginning of his presidency to throw this tradition out the window.
Instead, Trump continues to profit from businesses like his hotels, which have been used as a repository for foreign money.
Those foreign entities who have spent money at Trump hotels have often done so while also having business in front of the Trump administration. The entanglements give a clear path for Trump to be paid off through his businesses for decisions he makes as president.
The taxpayer-funded lawyers are defending the unethical arrangement in court. As USA Today reports, "The taxpayer-funded lawyers are making the case that it is not unconstitutional for the president's private companies to earn profits from foreign governments and officials while he's in office."
The lawyers are making the claim — disputed by several experts and watchdog groups — that the constitutional ban on gifts from foreign interests (the emoluments clause) does not apply when those foreign businesses do business with Trump's companies.
Trump uses the presidency to enrich himself. He also uses his businesses as a pathway for money that influences his decisions in the presidency.
And now we know that he is using American tax dollars to defend the entire enterprise in court.