Senate Democrats said President Donald Trump's company could be "effectively a pass-through for income" that violates the Constitution's two Emoluments Clauses, and demanded that the Trump Organization hand over details about its operations since its chief took office.
In a letter (pdf) to the Trump Organization's new leadership, which includes First Sons Eric and Donald, Jr., over a dozen top Democrats raised "serious concerns" about whether Trump has broken the laws that prohibit elected officials from taking foreign funds and block the president from making additional money beyond what he is paid in office.
Trump's previous vows to put his assets in a blind trust and step away from the corporation "ring hollow" given Eric Trump's statements that he would update his father on the business "probably quarterly," the letter states. Other news reports have noted that Trump would have access to "net income or principal" from the trust at any time.
"If accurate, the president will receive regular updates on the ongoing affairs of his businesses and will be able to regularly access profits," the letter states. "It defies common sense to believe that this type of arrangement could credibly insulate the president from unending Emoluments Clause violations."
The senators, who include Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Dianne Feinstein of California, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Al Franken of Minnesota, Chris Coons and Thomas Carper of Delaware, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Tom Udall of New Mexico, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, urged the Trump Organization to answer a series of questions "as soon as possible."
Those questions include if the Trump Organization accounts for income from foreign governments or sources as separate from other sources, and how; if and how it reports benefits aside from income, such as permits or trademarks; what steps the organization has taken to ensure that none of the many LLCs that have bought Trump properties since the election have links to foreign governments; and what the estimated value is of the 38 Chinese trademarks recently awarded to the Trump Organization; among other inquiries.
Another question asks how the company determines whether a guest at the Washington, D.C., Trump Hotel is using foreign government funds, how it measures "profits" from individual guests, and whether the president has donated the money to the U.S. Treasury, as he vowed to do "apparently in the mistaken belief that this promise might meet the requirements of the Foreign Emoluments Clause."
The letter is not the first time suspicions have been raised over the legality of the president's corporate interests. The watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit in January that accused Trump of violating the Emoluments Clause. Earlier this week, artist Robin Bell projected the words "Pay Trump Bribes Here" onto the face of the D.C. hotel.