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Trump rips emolument lawsuits: Being president 'costing me a fortune'

The Hill logo The Hill 8/13/2019 Brett Samuels

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Video by NBC News

President Trump on Tuesday disputed that he's profiting off the presidency, arguing instead that lawsuits alleging he's violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution amount to "presidential harassment" and are costing him significant legal fees.

"I got sued on a thing called emoluments. Emoluments. You ever hear of the word? Nobody ever heard of it before," Trump said at a Shell petrochemical plant in Pennsylvania.

"And what it is is presidential harassment, because this thing is costing me a fortune, and I love it," Trump added. "I love it because I'm making the lives of other people much, much better."

Multiple lawsuits have alleged Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits elected officials from receiving gifts or benefits from foreign governments without Congress's approval.

A federal appeals court dismissed an emoluments lawsuit last month filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia, but a separate emoluments lawsuit brought by Democratic lawmakers is still proceeding through the court system.

The president on Tuesday again invoked a book deal that former President Obama signed upon leaving office for a reported $60 million, suggesting it was a similar issue to the emoluments cases. Trump last month called for an investigation into Obama's book deal.

Donald Trump et al. standing next to a person in a suit and tie: Trump rips emolument lawsuits: Being president 'costing me a fortune' © Getty Images Trump rips emolument lawsuits: Being president 'costing me a fortune' However, Obama did not agree to the book deal until after he was out of the White House, and it is common for outgoing presidents to sign agreements to write memoirs. Former President George W. Bush signed a deal with Crown Publishing in 2009.

Trump's speech was billed as focused on energy and manufacturing. But the remarks quickly devolved into Trump railing against his critics, similar to a campaign rally.

At one point, the president began mocking those who have accused him of using the presidency to boost his business.

"This thing is costing me a fortune being president," Trump said. "Somebody said, 'oh he might have rented a room to a man from Saudi Arabia for $500.' What about the $5 billion I'll lose?"

There's no evidence to support Trump's claim that the presidency has cost him billions. He has refused to release his tax returns, making it difficult to accurately assess his wealth. But his latest financial disclosure forms show his properties earned tens of millions of dollars in the past year.

Watchdogs have raised concerns about the president's decision not to put his company in a blind trust, noting that lobbyists, foreign officials and political insiders may frequent his businesses to earn favor with the administration.

Still, Trump insisted that legal fees to defend against numerous lawsuits are costing him dearly.

"I don't care. You know, if you're wealthy it doesn't matter," he said in Pennsylvania. "I just want to do a great job."

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