Rule of Law

Blumenthal, et al. v. Trump

Holding President Trump accountable for his violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause.

In Brief

The Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution prohibits the President from accepting any benefits from foreign states unless he first obtains the consent of Congress. President Trump has never sought or received such consent.
The Founders adopted the Foreign Emoluments Clause because they believed America would be harmed if federal officeholders, including the President, made policy decisions based on their own self-interest rather than the national interest.
There is nothing members of Congress can do to redress this constitutional violation so long as the President is accepting foreign government benefits without first obtaining congressional consent. That’s why the courts must enforce the Constitution.

Case Summary

The Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution requires all federal officeholders, including the President, before accepting any benefits from foreign states, to first seek and obtain the consent of Congress. Our nation’s Founders concluded that such a requirement was the only way to prevent foreign influence on U.S. officials, and to ensure that those officials, including the President, act in the national interest, not their own financial self-interest. Because President Trump has failed to seek and obtain the consent of Congress before accepting benefits from foreign states, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and 200 other Members of Congress are asking the United States District Court for the District of Columbia to compel the President to comply with the Constitution.

Trump’s failure to comply with the Constitution matters. The Founders included the Foreign Emoluments Clause in the Constitution because they recognized that the American people would be harmed if federal officeholders, and especially the President, made policy decisions based on their own self-interest rather than the national interest.

Examples of Trump’s Unconstitutional Emoluments

President Trump has at no time sought or received the consent of Congress to accept any foreign emoluments, even though public reporting makes clear that he has already violated the Clause in at least three respects:

Foreign States Giving Regulatory Benefits to Trump Organizations

  • Since Trump became President, the Chinese government has approved 40 new trademarks to Trump and his companies. Circumstances suggest that these trademarks were approved or expedited as a result of Trump’s status as President of the United States; the director of a Hong Kong intellectual property consultancy, for instance, “said he had never seen so many applications approved so expeditiously,” and the approvals closely followed Trump’s abrupt decision to honor the one-China policy, in contrast to his earlier statements. [Associated Press, Mar. 9, 2017]

Foreign States Paying for Rooms and Events at Trump Hotels

  • In January and February 2017, a lobbying firm working for Saudi Arabia paid for rooms at Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., payments that were funded by the Saudi government. [Politico, Feb. 9, 2017]
  • On February 25, 2017, the Embassy of Kuwait held its National Day Celebration at Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel. The estimated price of the celebration was between $40,000 and $60,000. [Reuters, Feb. 27, 2017]

Foreign-Owned Entities Paying for Space in Trump Tower

  • The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which is owned by China. [Bloomberg, Nov. 28, 2016]
  • Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, which is owned by the United Arab Emirates. [Politico, Jun. 6, 2017]

In addition to the emoluments that have been publicly reported, there are almost certainly many more that are not yet known about — that, in fact, it is impossible to know about absent judicial process to compel Trump to provide information about his businesses and the benefits he has received from foreign states.

Case Timeline