Nearly 200 Democrats plan emoluments suit against Trump, claim Constitution gives them standing

By Debra Cassens Weiss

Congressional Democrats claim in a suit to be filed on Wednesday that the emoluments clause gives them standing to challenge benefits received from foreign leaders by President Donald Trump’s business organization.

The suit will be filed by 196 Democrats, the Washington Post reports. The lead Senate plaintiff, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said the number of congressional plaintiffs is higher than in any other suit filed against a president.

The emoluments clause states that, absent congressional consent, no one holding any office of profit or trust shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.”

Democrats argue they have standing because congressional consent is required before the president can accept gifts and benefits from foreign leaders.

Two other lawsuits have also claimed Trump is violating the emoluments clause because foreign governments pay for hotel rooms at Trump properties and conduct business with the Trump organization.

One suit was filed by the attorneys general for Maryland and Washington, D.C., and the other was initially filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics. Two additional plaintiffs have joined the CREW suit—an advocacy group for restaurant workers and a woman who books events at hotels in Washington, D.C.

The Justice Department has argued the plaintiffs in the CREW suit lack standing because they can’t allege a specific harm caused by hotel revenue from foreign governments. The department has also argued that fair-market payments to a business aren’t a benefit that violates the emoluments clause.

The state attorneys general argue that Trump’s D.C. hotel is taking business away from a convention center in the district that is owned by taxpayers, and from a taxpayer-subsidized convention center in Maryland.

Experts interviewed by the Post differed on whether the Democratic lawmakers have standing to sue. “Because this is individual legislators who don’t have any individual injuries, it will be hard for them to get standing,” said University of Iowa law professor Andy Grewal.