Constitutional Law

Judge refuses to toss Democrats' emoluments suit against Trump

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President Donald Trump/

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday refused to dismiss a lawsuit filed by congressional Democrats that contends President Donald Trump’s businesses receive money from foreign governments in violation of the emoluments clause.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan rejected the government’s contention that the clause bars only payments received in a president’s official capacity, report the New York Times, Politico and the Washington Post. Sullivan said the clause bars any gift or payment from a foreign government without advance approval from Congress.

Sullivan said the government’s interpretation of emoluments “disregards the ordinary meaning of the term as set forth in the vast majority of founding-era dictionaries; is inconsistent with the text, structure, historical interpretation, adoption and purpose of the clause; and is contrary to executive branch practice over the course of many years.”

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.”

About 200 Democratic members of Congress had claimed in their suit that Trump was violating the clause by accepting payments for hotel rooms and licensing fees for his show, The Apprentice, from foreign governments.

Sullivan had ruled in September that Democrats had standing to pursue the suit. The case is Blumenthal v. Trump.

The ruling follows a decision last July by U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte that allowed an emoluments suit filed by Maryland and Washington, D.C. The two jurisdictions contend Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C., is taking away business from the local hospitality industry. An appeal is pending in that case.

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