Donald Trump, meet the U.S. Constitution's 'emoluments clause.'
A federal judge ruled today that 200 congressional Democrats do have standing to sue Donald Trump for violating the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments while he holds the office of President, according to the Washington Post.
The lawsuit is based on the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars presidents from taking payments from foreign states. Trump’s business, which he still owns, has hosted foreign embassy events and visiting foreign officials at its downtown D.C. hotel.
The decision opens up yet another legal front for the president, who is now facing an array of inquiries into his business, his campaign and his charity.
Trump is already facing a separate emoluments suit filed by the attorneys general of Washington, D.C. and Maryland that is moving forward. In addition, he is contending with the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian interference, a lawsuit from the New York Attorney General that alleged “persistently illegal conduct” at his charitable foundation and a defamation lawsuit brought by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos.
In his ruling, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan wrote that the members of Congress “appropriate seek relief in federal court” because they have no way to address their concern about Trump’s alleged violation of the emoluments clause with legislation.
“The Clause requires the President to ask Congress before accepting a prohibited foreign emolument,” Sullivan wrote. If the allegations made by Democrats are true, he said, then “the President is accepting prohibited foreign emoluments without asking and without receiving a favorable reply from Congress.”
By not asking Congress, Sullivan said, Trump could have effectively “nullified their votes” — which, he said, meant legislators could seek the unusual remedy of filing a lawsuit against the president.