Rule of Law

Judge says emoluments suit against Trump can proceed

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that 200 congressional Democrats can sue President Donald Trump for benefiting from doing business with foreign governments, a violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia, said the lawmakers have a legal standing to proceed with the lawsuit in a Friday ruling. The plaintiffs — led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. — argue that Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by earning profits from the Trump International Hotel.

The emoluments clause of the Constitution says no person holding office may, without the consent of Congress, accept a present of any kind from a foreign state. Watchdogs insist that Trump is violating the Constitution whenever his hotels or golf courses receive a payment from a foreign government.

Sullivan said that if the allegations made by Democratic lawmakers are true, “the President is accepting prohibited foreign emoluments without asking and without receiving a favorable reply from Congress,” a violation of the Constitution. He said the plaintiffs showed enough evidence to proceed with the case.

Blumenthal called the ruling “a real milestone.”

The Constitutional Accountability Center, which represented the Democratic lawmakers in the case, called it a “major victory.”

“This is a momentous ruling. Judge Sullivan correctly reviewed the Supreme Court and D.C. Circuit case law in this area, and concluded that President Trump harms members of Congress by accepting benefits from foreign governments without first obtaining their affirmative consent,” the organization said.

“By recognizing that members of Congress have standing to sue, the court proved to all in America today that no one is above the law, not even the president.”

The Justice Department said it expects the case to be dismissed.

Sullivan is the second judge to allow an emoluments case against Trump. In March, District Court Judge Peter Messitte of Maryland approved a similar lawsuit.