Appeals Court Rules Democrats Cannot Sue Trump on Emoluments Case

February 7, 2020 Updated: February 7, 2020
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A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump brought by Democratic lawmakers, who accuse him of illegally profiting from his vast business holdings around the world.

The three-panel judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the 215 Congress members who brought the suit did not have standing to sue in the case. The case is centered on allegations that the billionaire president had violated the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prevents any “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 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 judges, two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee, wrote in their 12-page opinion (pdf). “But we will not—indeed we cannot—participate in this debate.”

Opponents have raised concerns that Trump still owns businesses, through a trust, that are frequented by foreign and domestic government officials. The president has previously said he is losing money by being in office and called the legal action “presidential harassment.

Reacting to Friday’s decision, Trump wrote on Twitter, “Another win just in. Nervous Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in Congress sued me, thrown out. This one unanimous, in the D.C. Circuit. Witch Hunt!”

One of the lawmakers suing Trump, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) also weighed in on the ruling, saying that he was “deeply disappointed [and] alarmed by this decision.”

“This dismaying decision adds to the already widespread fear that the checks on unbridled presidential power, corruption, & self-enrichment have been seriously undermined,” Blumenthal wrote on Twitter.

He said they were evaluating the next steps in the case and did not confirm or deny whether they plan to appeal the decision.

A Justice Department spokesperson told The Epoch Times in a statement that “the department is very pleased.”

The case, cited as Blumenthal v. Trump, filed in 2017, was seeking declaratory relief and an injunction against the president. The Justice Department tried to dismiss the case by arguing that the lawmakers lacked standing, no cause of action authorized the challenge, the lawmakers failed to state a claim where relief could be granted, and that an injunction against the president in his official capacity would violate the Constitution.

The district court rejected the president’s attempt to dismiss the case, but this was overturned by Friday’s circuit decision who said the lawmakers did not have standing because the 29 senators and 186 members of the House of Representatives who brought the case did not represent the majority of either chamber and thus are “powerless to approve or deny the President’s acceptance of foreign emoluments.” The circuit court did not decide on the question of whether the president had violated the emoluments clause.

Other emoluments lawsuits are going through the court in the 4th Circuit in Virginia and the 2nd Circuit in New York.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan