Donald Trump appears to have finally stepped into a legal landmine that could blow up his presidency.
Norm Eisen, the top ethics official under former President Obama, is accusing Trump of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause after a bombshell report revealed that a major development project linked to Trump in Indonesia is expected to be supported by $500 million from the Chinese government.
The South China Morning Post reported that $500 million in Chinese government loans will support construction of MNC Lido City, a billion-dollar resort and theme park project that will feature Trump-branded hotels and a golf course.
Trump’s involvement in the project was solidified just before the 2016 presidential election, according to the paper.
The report comes less than 24 hours after Trump stunned Congress by vowing to save a Chinese company sanctioned by the United States government for breaking U.S. laws.
“This is a violation of the Emoluments Clause,” Eisen tweeted. “A big one. See you in court Mr. Trump.”
This is a violation of the Emoluments Clause. A big one. See you in court Mr. Trump https://t.co/JuSmCYChyh
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) May 14, 2018
Richard Painter, former President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer, also told the South China Morning Post that the project could violate the emoluments clause and said he “would have advised” Trump to sell his holdings in the project.
Trump announced in a tweet over the weekend that surprised many in Washington that he was working with Chinese President Xi Jinping to boost Chinese telecommunications company ZTE, which was under a U.S. import ban for violating U.S. sanctions on Iran.
The report also comes after several weeks of back-and-forth on tariffs between the U.S. and China.
Trump is already facing two lawsuits, both as the president and as an individual, for allegedly violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bans elected officials from financially benefitting from foreign governments.
A conservative federal judge in December dismissed another emoluments clause lawsuit against Trump that was brought by watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Trump has retained ownership of his company, though he handed control over to his two sons.
Critics and ethics watchdogs say Trump is violating the clause whenever foreign governments make use of his hotels or golf courses. Trump has asked a federal judge to dismiss one of the lawsuits.