The head of the House Foreign Affairs committee is directing the panel's staffers to warn foreign governments not to patronize President Donald Trump's businesses.
Rep. Eliot Engel — one of about 200 lawmakers who sued Trump in 2017 charging he's violating the Constitution's Foreign Emoluments Clause by making money from foreign governments while in office — issued the memo to the panel's Democratic staffers on Monday.
"When meeting with officials from a foreign government, please inform them that by providing any form of payment or benefit to a Trump-owned property their government is facilitating the president’s apparent violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause,” Engel said.
Staffers should "urge those foreign officials to transmit to their governments that the House Foreign Affairs Committee requests that they cease and desist payments to the Trump Organization unless and until Congress approves the emolument, as provided in the Constitution.”
The emoluments clause says that no person holding "any office of Profit or Trust" in the United States shall, "without the Consent of the Congress, accept any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."
Engel, a New York Democrat, noted in his memo that federal courts have ruled that emolument means "any profit, gain or advantage, including profits from private transactions."
Foreign governments have rented a number of suites and held large events at Trump properties since the president took office, and some othershave rented luxury condos at other Trump properties.
Trump's lawyers have contended he is not violating the emoluments clause because the properties aren't related to his duties as president.
A federal appeals court dismissed a suit brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., over the alleged violation last month, but the congressional lawsuit is still pending.
Speaking at a petrochemical company in Monaca, Pennsylvania, earlier Tuesday, Trump mocked the case against him and denied he's been profiting from the presidency — baselessly claiming that being president will cost him $3 billion to $5 billion.
"I got sued on a thing called 'emoluments.' Emoluments. You ever hear the word? Nobody ever heard of it before," Trump said. "And what it is is presidential harassment. Because this thing is costing me a fortune, and I love it, OK? I love it because I'm making the lives of other people much, much better."
"This thing is costing me a fortune, being president. Somebody said, 'Oh, he might have rented a room to a man from Saudi Arabia for $500,'" he said. "What about the $5 billion that I'll lose?"