Two more restaurant and hospitality industry plaintiffs have joined a class-action lawsuit against President Trump that argues the president is violating the Constitution. The two new plaintiffs — Restaurant Opportunities Centers United (which represents more than 25,000 restaurant workers and 200 restaurant-owner members) and a DC-based luxury hotel booker — argue that Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause.
The Emoluments Clause, found in Article I, Section 9 of the United States Constitution, prohibits any government official from profiting from being in office and prevents them from accepting gifts and benefits from foreign leaders or groups. Since foreign leaders and diplomats will regularly stay at or dine out at Trump properties, the lawsuit argues that this particular issue is covered by the clause.
This lawsuit parallels another, smaller lawsuit filed by Cork Wine Bar in Washington, D.C., which cited unfair competition with the Trump International Hotel in Washington and argued that the Trump Hotel should be shut down for the duration of the Trump presidency. The lawsuit claims that visiting diplomats and officials will overwhelmingly choose to stay and dine in the DC Trump Hotel over other nearby businesses. Saru Jayaraman, co-founder and co-director of ROC United, told NPR that many members feel that “the potential loss is so great."
"This isn't about politics; I'm a registered Republican," Jill Phaneuf, the hotel booker named in the lawsuit, told NPR."I believe nothing is more important than our constitutional protections. I joined this lawsuit because the president is taking business away from me and others with unfair business practices that violate the Constitution."
The Emoluments Clause lawsuit was filed in January and is pending in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The White House has called both lawsuits “without merit.”