Court Rules US Congress Members Can Sue Trump for Emoluments Clause Violations

Lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments can proceed

Sullivan said in his ruling that the provision gives each member of Congress the right to vote before the president accepts a prohibited foreign emolument.

"This is a bombshell victory enabling us to move forward to hold the president accountable for violating the chief corruption prohibition in the United States' Constitution", Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), asked the court to force Trump to stop accepting payments they consider improper - or to force him to seek Congress's consent first.

The Democrats' attorney Elizabeth Wydra, who is president of the non-profitconstitutional Accountability Center and argued the case in court, said that "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". Democrats allege that by, for example, hosting world leaders at his DC hotel, he is profiting from them.

U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan on Friday found that lawmakers have adequately shown that they have suffered harm from the president's alleged violation of the clause.

In other words, the Democrats argue, members of Congress must vote to consent to whether a president can keep a gift or thing of value from a foreign power, and they couldn't do so if they didn't know about the payments.

President Trump said he stepped down from running his $3 billion empire but retained his ownership interests, a decision the Democrats say violates the Foreign Emoluments clause because he's getting payments from foreign governments without congressional approval.

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trump's business, which he still owns, has hosted foreign embassy events and visiting foreign officials at its downtown D.C. hotel.

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Trump's argument is that the transactions do not fit the Founding Fathers' definition of "emoluments" because they are business deals, not payoffs.

The ruling, which can be appealed to the Supreme Court, says the plaintiffs' case can proceed.

"Accordingly, if these plaintiffs do not have standing to bring their claims to address their alleged injury, it is unlikely that another plaintiff would, rendering the Clause unenforceable against the President except via impeachment", Sullivan wrote.

Department of Justice spokeswoman Kelly Laco said the government "will continue to defend the president in court".

The judge's ruling was welcomed by Laurence Tribe, a constitutional scholar who has been fighting the president in court and on Twitter. The Trump Organization announced earlier this year that it donated more than $150,000 in what it described as profits from foreign government business at Trump's Washington, DC, hotel to the US Treasury.

A federal judge in Maryland allowed that case to move forward in July.

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