Constitutional Law

Democratic lawmakers have standing to pursue emoluments suit, judge rules

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President Donald Trump/Evan El-Amin (

More than 200 members of Congress have standing to pursue their lawsuit claiming President Donald Trump violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause because his business interests profit from foreign governments.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan of Washington, D.C., ruled on Friday, report the National Law Journal, Courthouse News Service and the Washington Post.

The emoluments clause states that, absent congressional consent, no one holding any office of profit or trust shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.”

Democrats contend Trump is violating the clause by accepting benefits from foreign governments without the consent of Congress. They are seeking a declaratory judgment that the clause is being violated and an injunction preventing Trump from accepting further emoluments.

Lawyers for Trump had argued that Congress already has a remedy because it could pass legislation addressing the president’s ability to accept banned emoluments. Sullivan said, however, that Democrats had adequately alleged that Trump deprived them of the opportunity to vote by accepting the emoluments before seeking congressional consent.

Legislation passed after Congress learns of an emolument “is clearly an inadequate remedy,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan has yet to rule on other arguments for dismissal made by Trump’s lawyers. One issue is whether the emoluments clause applies to the type of benefits received by Trump through business interests such as hotels and golf courses. The case is Blumenthal v. Trump.

A judge in a different emoluments suit filed by Maryland and Washington, D.C., ruled in March that they could pursued a narrowed claim that the clause was violated when the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., accepted business from foreign and state governments.

In December, another federal judge dismissed an emoluments suit brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a restaurant industry group.

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