Democrats ask Supreme Court to hear emoluments case against Trump

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Democratic lawmakers are appealing their emoluments case against President Trump to the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court ruled that they lacked standing to sue over alleged constitutional violations.

The 215 members of Congress are accusing Trump of violating the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits federal officials from receiving gifts or money from foreign governments without congressional approval, by continuing to operate and profit from his hotel chain while in office.

The brief says Trump has been “violating this critical constitutional prohibition for his entire term in office.” It was filed with the Supreme Court on Monday.

“By maintaining ownership of his companies while they conduct business with foreign governments — without seeking or obtaining congressional consent for these transactions — the President is accepting unauthorized financial benefits from foreign states,” it states.

A three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in February that because the members did not represent the majority in either congressional chamber they lacked standing to sue the president. The decision also argued that the case was a political dispute that didn’t belong in court.

“The Members can, and likely will, continue to use their weighty voices to make their case to the American people, their colleagues in the Congress and the President himself, all of whom are free to engage that argument as they see fit,” the judges wrote. “But we will not — indeed we cannot — participate in this debate.”

The lawmakers sued the president in 2017, when Republicans were in control of both the House and Senate. A federal judge rejected the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss the case, ruling that the lawmakers had standing to sue, only to be overruled by the D.C. Circuit.

Trump has refused to divest from his business empire while in office, which critics say raises significant conflicts of interest. His hotels have reportedly been frequented by foreign diplomats from around the world since his term began.

The emoluments debate is just the latest case that has forced the Supreme Court to grapple with legal questions surrounding Trump’s personal and business finances. The justices are expected in the next few days to rule on whether subpoenas for his financial records are legal.

The Supreme Court must decide whether to take up the case, which requires the approval of at least four justices. Unless the court adopts an expedited briefing schedule, it’s unlikely the case will be decided before Election Day.

In a similar case, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in May that an emoluments lawsuit from the D.C. and Maryland attorneys general could continue. The president’s attorney has vowed to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court.

In their petition to the Supreme Court on Monday, lawmakers argued that they have standing to sue in this case because the president disregarded their constitutional right to vote on whether to approve his acceptance of foreign emoluments.

A spokesman for the Justice Department, which is representing Trump, did not immediately respond when asked for comment. But the administration’s lawyers have argued in court that foreign diplomats patronizing the president’s businesses do not qualify as a foreign emolument.

They also argue that the only legal way for Congress to act against the president when it comes to emoluments is to use the legislative tools at its disposal.

Updated at 4:49 p.m.

Tags Donald Trump Emoluments Clause Supreme Court Trump hotel

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