Rule of Law

Supreme Court rejects Blumenthal appeal in Trump emoluments case

Washington – As he prepared to grill the latest candidate for appointment to the Supreme Court, that court dealt Sen. Richard Blumenthal a defeat Tuesday by declining to hear a case he brought alleging that President Donald Trump violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits self-dealing by federal office holders.

The Connecticut Democrat and 200 of his fellow Democratic colleagues had asked the court to review a February ruling by a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals that the lawmakers lacked the legal standing to sue the president.

The circuit court judges decided the lawmakers had no standing to sue because they did not represent a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives or the U.S. Senate. The judges only ruled on the issue of whether the members had standing. They did not rule on a district court’s earlier finding that the Democrats had a cause of action and a claim against the president.

The non-profit Constitutional Accountability Center represented the lawmakers in Blumenthal v Trump.

The lawmakers maintained that Trump’s continued ownership of companies engaged in business with foreign governments amounted to accepting “unauthorized financial benefits from foreign states” in violation of the constitutional restriction.

The Emoluments Clause says “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

The high court’s denial to hear the appeal means that the Democrats’ petition failed to garner support from at least four justices on the Supreme Court, which, with the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg last month, now has only eight justices. Trump’s candidate to replace Ginsburg, Judge Amy Coney Barrett, is undergoing several days of confirmation hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.

The Supreme Court’s decision to reject the appeal leaves in place the lower court ruling.

Blumenthal said he is “disappointed that we have been denied the opportunity to hold the president accountable for his violations of the constitutional prohibition against taking foreign payments and gifts without the consent of Congress.”

“The American people are learning more every day about President Trump’s corruption, including recent reporting on more than $70 million in income from foreign sources, in addition to the violations we described in our complaint,” Blumenthal said. “My hope is that President Trump is held accountable by the court of public opinion – if not courts of law — and that Congress will act in the future to protect against this kind of lawbreaking.”

Blumenthal’s emoluments case was one of three ongoing constitutional challenges to Trump and his business, alleging that the president is violating the anti-corruption emoluments clause. Those cases, one brought by an advocacy group and the other by the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, are still making their way through the courts.

The lawsuits are likely to be dismissed as moot if Trump loses his re-election bid on Nov. 3.