WASHINGTON ― Moments before Donald Trump took the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a massive Freedom of Information Act request for documents related to his multi-billion dollar business and conflicts of interest.
The civil liberties group is requesting documents from the Office of Government Ethics, the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, the General Services Administration and the Office of Personnel Management. The ACLU also released a seven-point plan explaining how it will challenge Trump in the next four years.
“We are bringing this first legal action using the Freedom of Information Act to underscore the fact that President Trump is not above the law,” Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU, said in a statement. “Trump took the oath, but he didn’t take the steps necessary to ensure that he and his family’s business interests comply with the Constitution and other federal statutes.”
In a press conference on Jan. 11, Trump announced that he would not divest himself of his business holdings and the many conflicts of interest they pose, both foreign and domestic. He instead handed off control of his business to his two adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, while maintaining his full stake in the company and its many subsidiaries. The director of the Office of Government Ethics, Walter Shaub, commented that Trump’s plan fell far short of the standard set by every other president in the modern era.
The ACLU’s FOIA request asks the four government agencies for access to all documents, legal opinions and communications related to the Trump Organization and Trump transition team’s business conflicts of interest. This includes any legal opinions related to the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses of the Constitution, anti-nepotism laws, ethics regulations and gift rules for the executive branch, as well as regulations related to the integrity of the procurement process.
“The ACLU files many, many FOIA requests. I’m certain this will be the first of many to seek info from what is now Trump’s government,” said ACLU attorney Brett Kaufman.
The organization’s seven-point plan includes:
Demanding government accountability and transparency
Protecting the rights of immigrants
Defending reproductive rights
Protecting First Amendment rights
Defending LGBT rights
Defending core civil rights and civil liberties from erosion
Mobilizing the American people.
The ACLU said it is planning legal action to protect undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers, whose parents brought them as children to the United States. The group will challenge detention policies, racial profiling and “stop-and-frisk policies,” as well as any policies that discriminate against Muslims. It will also oppose defunding Planned Parenthood and challenge restrictions on abortion.
ACLU lawyers will also continue to challenge government surveillance policies in court, fight against any restrictions or rollbacks of LGBTQ rights, including LGBTQ people’s right to serve in the armed forces openly, and will oppose existing and newly proposed voter suppression legislation, including voter identification laws.
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