A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit alleging President Trump violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause because his hotels and golf courses continue to do business with foreign governments while he’s serving in office.
U.S. District Court Judge George Daniels said the lawsuit was flawed from the start because the plaintiffs, led by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, lacked standing.
Daniels, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, also said the matter should be taken before Congress, not the courts.
“As the only political branch with the power to consent to violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, Congress is the appropriate body to determine whether, and to what extent, Defendant’s conduct unlawfully infringes on that power,” he wrote in his ruling. “If Congress determines that an infringement has occurred, it is up to Congress to decide whether to challenge or acquiesce to Defendant’s conduct. As such, this case presents a non-justiciable political question.”
The group’s suit, filed three days after Trump’s inauguration, alleged that the president had violated a little-known, never-tested provision of the Constitution known as the foreign emoluments clause. Written to prevent early America’s diplomats and officials from being swayed by gifts from wealthier nations, the provision bars officeholders from accepting a “present [or] emolument from any King, Prince or foreign state.”
CREW charged that Trump was violating the emoluments provision because his company continued to do business and seek benefits from foreign governments after he became president, including by leasing space to foreign entities in Trump Tower and renting ballrooms for embassy functions at the Trump hotel in Washington.
The lawsuit also alleged that Trump probably had violated another constitutional provision, the domestic emoluments clause, which bars presidents from taking payments other than their salary from individual states. Several state government officials have stayed at Trump’s Washington hotel or eaten at its BLT Prime steakhouse since Trump’s election. (WaPo)
CREW vowed to appeal the verdict, issuing a statement saying, “while today’s ruling is a setback, we will not walk away from this serious and ongoing constitutional violation. The Constitution is explicit on these issues, and the president is clearly in violation.”