Law & the Courts

Appeals Court Rules Democrats Do Not Have Standing to Sue Trump on Emoluments Clause

President Donald Trump at a rally in Toledo, Ohio, January 9, 2020. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

A federal appeals court on Friday threw out a lawsuit against President Trump brought by Democratic lawmakers, who accused Trump of profiting from foreign government officials’ patronage of his businesses.

The panel of three judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that the more than 200 Democratic senators and representatives did not have the standing to levy the lawsuit since they are not in the majority.

“Only an institution can assert an institutional injury,” the judges, two Republican appointees and one Democratic appointee, wrote.

The members “do not constitute a majority of either body and are, therefore, powerless to approve or deny the president’s acceptance of foreign emoluments,” the court stated.

The Democrats had accused Trump of violating the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits government officials from accepting gifts or payment from foreign dignitaries.

Democrats have for months been probing whether the Trump administration has funneled spending by foreign governments into Trump’s businesses, such as the president’s suggestion that the 2020 G-7 summit be held at Trump National Doral Miami.

Similar lawsuits against the administration over the emoluments clause have erupted in the 4th Circuit in Virginia and the 2nd Circuit in New York.

“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 court wrote. “But we will not — indeed we cannot — participate in this debate.”

The Democratic lawmakers have not said whether they will appeal the decision, although their counsel said they are “considering next steps.”

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