(WASHINGTON, D.C.) - Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) has introduced legislation to help stop President Donald Trump’s ongoing violations of the Constitution’s Domestic Emoluments Clause. Raskin’s bill, the Heightened Oversight of Travel, Eating, and Lodging (HOTEL) Act (H.R. 5304) would prohibit government agencies from using taxpayer dollars to stay or dine at hotels, restaurants, and other properties owned by the President, the President’s family, or the head of any other executive agency.
Unlike previous presidents, Donald Trump has refused to divest himself of his business holdings and instead retained his ownership interest in the Trump Organization, a decision presenting constant ethical problems and potential constitutional violations.
The Constitution prohibits the President from receiving any emolument (any profit, benefit, gift, or payment) other than his salary while in office, but President Trump has continued to receive profits from his properties. These profits include taxpayer money paid to Trump properties by various federal government agencies patronizing Trump businesses.
The HOTEL Act would prohibit the use of taxpayer dollars for paying executive branch employees’ per diem allowance or travel reimbursements for lodging or dining services at any properties owned by the President or his family.
“If the President does not have enough respect for the Constitution to refuse extra government payments beyond his official salary,” said Congressman Raskin, “then we must cut the unlawful payments off at the source.”
Recent reports demonstrate the need for such a ban: This week, Americans learned that the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) had spent a staggering $138,093 in travel expenses at 12 different Trump properties in the first eight months of the Trump administration. Trump’s expensive Mar-a-Lago resort charged the U.S. Secret Service at least $63,700 between February and April of 2017 alone. It also billed the U.S. Coast Guard $1,092 for a two-night stay by an employee traveling on official government business. The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which secured a 60-year lease from the government in 2013, presents significant conflicts of interest and has also received taxpayer funds. Last month, CNN reported that the General Services Administration (GSA), the government entity tasked with overseeing the lease and protecting taxpayers’ interests in the agreement, was billed $1,650 by the Trump International Hotel and its onsite restaurant. This payment merits extra scrutiny, as it occurred shortly before the GSA suddenly reversed its previous determination that Trump’s ownership of the hotel would violate a provision of the agreement barring elected officials from deriving any benefit from the lease.
“Public office in our system may not be converted into racket for private gain,” Raskin said. “The government may not be turned into a money-making operation for the President and his family. We must stop all executive branch officials, all of whom report ultimately to President Trump, from spending public dollars at Trump hotels, restaurants, golf courses and other businesses. This is a ludicrous situation.”
Congressman Jamie Raskin represents Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, which includes Montgomery, Frederick, and Carroll counties. He is the Vice Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, a Senior Democratic Whip, and Freshman Representative to the House Democratic Steering & Policy Committee. He also serves on the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee and the Committee on House Administration. He has been a professor of constitutional law at American University’s Washington College of Law for more than 25 years.