President Trump's plans to use Trump National Doral Miami to host next year's Group of Seven summit may have been scrapped -- but there is still evidence the president is violating the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, Connecticut Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal argued in a brief filed in federal court on Tuesday.
Trump has forcefully defended himself against accusations that he is improperly profiting from his business ventures, noting that the Constitution does not define "emolument" and that his companies and properties existed long before he became president.
But in the brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which was first reported by McClatchy, Blumenthal asserted that Trump's behavior amounted to open defiance of the Constitution.
"Increasingly brazen, President Trump just last week announced that he was awarding the next G-7 summit to his resort in Doral, Florida, only to reverse course after a public outcry—in the aftermath, disparaging 'you people with this phony Emoluments Clause,'" Blumenthal wrote.
"Worst of all," he added, "because the President is not obtaining congressional consent before accepting benefits from foreign governments, the full range of those benefits and the governments providing them remain unknown."
Blumenthal went on to argue that although legislators generally lack standing to sue the president, due in part to separation-of-powers concerns, Supreme Court precedent supports a finding of standing in this instance.
The senator cited the "untold amounts for rent and fees at his commercial and residential towers" that Trump has allegedly obtained from foreign governments.
“The president may have decided, for now, not to go ahead with his plan to hold the G-7 summit at his Doral resort, but the fact that he even thought about it underscores once again that he has zero regard for the Foreign Emoluments Clause,” Blumenthal said in a statement published by McClatchy. “That’s why my lawsuit to hold the president accountable to the Constitution is so important.”
On Monday, Trump argued that "Democrats went crazy" with criticisms that he would have violated the "phony emoluments clause" of the Constitution.
"I was willing to do this for free," Trump said during a Cabinet meeting on Monday, comparing it to his decision not to take his $400,000 presidential salary. But now, he said, "It will cost a fortune for the country."
He brushed aside the criticism that, even without accepting payments, hosting the summit at his Trump National Doral near Miami would have been one big promotion for his brand. "You don't think I get enough promotion? I get more promotion than any human being that's ever lived," he said.
Trump reversed course Saturday on hosting the G-7 at Doral after Republicans joined Democrats in raising alarm about self-dealing and violating the emoluments clause that bans presidents from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments. His acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, said the president realized that "it looks lousy" to steer business to his property.
Trump said Monday that the Doral had taken a hit — "It went from doing great to doing fine."
The resort is the biggest revenue generator of his 17 golf properties, but the PGA and other organizations have pulled events that used to be held there and his company has told local authorities that they should cut its tax bill because it is underperforming.
Mulvaney said last week that Doral was "far and away" the best venue because of its location near the Miami airport and separate buildings to host each country's delegation.
Mulvaney listed eight states visited in the screening process, including Tennessee, North Carolina, Hawaii, California, Michigan and Utah.
White House officials declined to name the specific properties they had considered or provide details on how they vetted them.
Trump had earlier tweeted that a possible alternate location was the presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland, the site of the G-7 summit in 2012. However, Mulvaney earlier described Camp David as way too small and remote and a "miserable place" for a G-7.
Asked at the Cabinet meeting where the summit will be held now, Trump said that the search team would look at other locations, but regardless, "I don't think it will be as exciting."
Fox News' Edmund DeMarche and The Associated Press contributed to this report.