Bad News for Trump: An Emoluments Clause Lawsuit Against Him Just Had a Major Win
On Friday evening, just as he was dealing with a setback to his Supreme Court nomination, President Donald Trump got a fresh piece of unwelcome news.
According to a report in the Washington Post, federal district court judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that a lawsuit filed against the president by 200 congressional Democrats, alleging he is in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the constitution, can proceed:
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 opinion, Sullivan, an appointee of President Bill Clinton, held that the lawsuit was valid because there was no way for the members of Congress who are party to it to address the dispute through other means, such as legislation.
Trump previously said he would divest from all of his businesses if elected president, a promise he went back on even before he was sworn in. Since then, Trump and members of his inner circle have shown no qualms about using the presidency for the profit of Trump businesses and properties, from touting his country club on the State Department website to charging the Secret Service to rent his golf carts.
But a violation of the Emoluments Clause, a prohibition set forth by the Constitution, could potentially be a bigger deal. Indeed, Congressional Republicans have privately listed Emoluments Clause violations among the things they fear Democrats will investigate if they manage to win back the House of Representatives this year.