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Close to 200 Democrats in Congress filed a federal lawsuit on Wednesday alleging President Trump has illegally profited from foreign payments to his worldwide business interests. But the list of plaintiffs was missing a few notable names.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein and four other Democrats in California’s congressional delegation, including some representatives of districts with a strong Republican or evenly divided electorate, did not sign onto the lawsuit.
Feinstein, who appears likely to run for reelection in 2018, has taken heat in recent months from liberal activists who have criticized her for not taking a more aggressive stance against Trump.
Her spokesman, Tom Mentzer, said the senator stayed away from the suit because she is the lead Democrat on one of the Senate committees investigating the Trump administration.
“As the lead Democrat on one of the two Senate committees investigating the president, Sen. Feinstein decided joining the lawsuit at this time may create an appearance of bias,” Mentzer said. “The senator will continue to be a vocal opponent of the president's illegal acceptance of foreign payments and benefits.”
That did not keep Feinstein's fellow Democrat and California's junior senator, Kamala Harris, from joining the lawsuit. Like Feinstein, Harris also sits on the Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence, one of the panels investigating the allegations about Trump and Russia. Harris has not responded to a request for comment.
The lawsuit alleges Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which forbids federal officials from accepting payments from foreign governments without the consent of Congress.
As an example, the suit points to the Trump International Hotel Washington, which it alleges has been actively courting foreign diplomats since Trump's election in November.
The suit also alleges that Trump, through his business empire, has benefited financially from dozens of trademarks issued by the Chinese government since he was sworn into office.
The legal action comes just two days after the attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia filed an anti-corruption lawsuit against Trump on similar grounds.
The White House has denied that Trump's business interests violate the Constitution.
The California Democrats in the House who did not sign onto the lawsuit are Ami Bera of Elk Grove, Jim Costa of Fresno, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert and Lou Correa of Santa Ana.
The Republican Party has said it will target Bera and Ruiz in the 2018 election.
1:31 p.m.: This story was updated to clarify why Feinstein was not a plaintiff in the lawsuit.