Nearly 200 Democrats Sue Trump Over His Alleged Business Conflicts

By Cate Carrejo

More than 190 House and Senate Democrats are suing Donald Trump over his business conflicts, according to a conference call held with congressional representatives and reporters this week. Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal, one of the Democrats leading the lawsuit, alleged that Trump “repeatedly and flagrantly violated” the Constitution’s controversial Emoluments Clause, which prevents federal employees from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

The Emoluments Clause has been one of the most frequently cited avenues for impeachment in the early months of Trump’s presidency, with some hard-line detractors alleging that he broke the law the second he entered office. Theoretically, Trump’s profits in the form of hotel fees from foreign governments, such as Kuwait or Saudi Arabia, make him non-neutral when dealing with those countries in the political arena.

Because of Trump’s business ties to various governments, the argument could be made that he’s a foreign agent and that any policies he endorses in relation to those countries would be unfairly chosen. If the idea is to minimize the amount of influence that foreign governments could possibly exert over American public officials, then this interpretation of the clause is the most appropriate.

Despite the certainty of some that Trump will be impeached, some people disagree with the entire premise of the argument against the president. According to Fox News’ Gregg Jarrett, the Emoluments Clause was never intended to prevent presidents from owning business, but merely to codify bribery as illegal. Many of the Founding Fathers were farmers who sold their crops to British, French, and Indian governments without anyone invoking the rule.

The legal definition of the word “emoluments” will likely be the deciding factor in this case, and that doesn’t look good for Democrats. With conservatives outnumbering liberals on the Supreme Court right now, the majority ruling are more likely to stick to a strict interpretation of the clause rather than a more holistic view of the law. The definition of emoluments as provided by Merriam-Webster is “the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites,” which means that Trump might not be breaking the rule since his profit is derived from his businesses, not his elected office.

Obviously Trump isn’t a farmer though, so the scope of this situation could push case law on the Emoluments Clause into an unprecedented area. The lawsuit will be interesting in the short term and could be potentially historic i the long-term, so stay tuned as the legal challenge unfolds.