Emoluments Lawsuit Against Trump Dismissed

Dec 22, 2017
Originally published on December 22, 2017 6:28 am
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A federal judge dismissed a lawsuit against President Trump. The suit charged that the president is violating anti-corruption provisions of the Constitution. Now, the judge did not actually rule on those accusations but did set the case aside. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Judge George Daniels in Manhattan said the heart of the plaintiff's case, the Constitution's Foreign Emoluments Clause, was something they couldn't even sue over. The Foreign Emoluments Clause bars federal officials from taking gifts or rewards from foreign governments unless Congress consents. But last January, Sheri Dillon, one of Trump's lawyers, told reporters that the Emoluments Clauses don't apply.

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SHERI DILLON: No one would have thought when the Constitution was written that paying your hotel bill was an emolument. Instead, it would have been thought of as a value-for-value exchange, not a gift, not a title and not an emolument.

OVERBY: So Trump has never asked permission of Congress, and Judge Daniels said it's up to Congress, not citizens, to act on the Foreign Emoluments Clause. Congress is not a potted plant, he wrote. The watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, sued Trump last January on his first work day in the Oval Office. CREW's joined in the case by three other plaintiffs from the hospitality industry in Manhattan and Washington, D.C. Deepak Gupta, representing the plaintiffs, said there will be an appeal.

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DEEPAK GUPTA: We are not going to walk away from this serious and ongoing constitutional violation. The Constitution is explicit on these issues.

OVERBY: The Justice Department is defending the president. DOJ spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said last night the department appreciates the court's ruling and its conclusion. The Emoluments Clauses were little noticed until Trump was elected. He's the first president to own a global business empire. Critics say foreign governments and others seeking to influence him could funnel money through his hotels, restaurants and golf clubs. The Emoluments Clauses are seen as important safeguards against corruption. This case appears to be the first emoluments lawsuit ever in federal courts; two others are pending.

The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia have a domestic emoluments case. They claim their public facilities, such as convention centers, are losing business to Trump-owned enterprises in Washington, D.C. There's a preliminary hearing in that case next month. And more than 200 House and Senate Democrats allege that Trump is violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause by failing to ask for congressional consent.

Two of the Congressional plaintiffs, Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, said the decision by Judge Daniels reinforces their argument that Congress ought to be involved. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

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