A D.C. appeals court threw out a lawsuit on Friday accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, ruling that the lawmakers who filed the case lacked standing to sue.
Democratic members of Congress sued Trump in June 2017 over his alleged violation of the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits presidents from receiving foreign payments while in office.
The lawmakers had alleged that Trump’s continued ownership of his D.C. hotel and other businesses meant that he was receiving payments from foreign officials.
But in a per curiam opinion a three-judge panel on the D.C. Circuit ruled that the lawmakers could not use the judiciary to settle the dispute. Justice Department attorneys representing Trump in the case had argued that Congress cannot resort to the courts to resolve disputes with the executive branch.
“The Members can, and likely will, continue to use their weighty voices to make their case to the American people, their colleagues in the Congress and the President himself, all of whom are free to engage that argument as they see fit,” the opinion reads. “But we will not — indeed we cannot — participate in this debate. The Constitution permits the Judiciary to speak only in the context of an Article III case or controversy and this lawsuit presents neither.”
Last year, a lower court ruled against Trump and found that the members of Congress did have standing to sue over the alleged Emoluments Clause violation.
“Here, regardless of rigor, our conclusion is straightforward because the Members—29 Senators and 186 Members of the House of Representatives—do not constitute a majority of either body and are, therefore, powerless to approve or deny the President’s acceptance of foreign emoluments,” the opinion reads.
The court held that because the Democratic lawmakers did not constitute a majority of Congress, they could not bring a lawsuit on behalf of the whole legislature. The lawsuit, therefore, was no different from one filed “by a single member.”
The decision comes in one of three separate lawsuits accusing the President of violating the Constitution’s ban on accepting foreign emoluments.
A second suit – brought by the D.C. and Maryland attorneys general – is currently awaiting resolution at the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond after the court reheard the case en banc following its dismissal by an earlier panel.
In the third case, filed in Manhattan federal court, some local restaurants and hotels have claimed that Trump’s alleged receipt of foreign emoluments puts them at an unfair competitive advantage.
Read the opinion here: