Political News

Supreme Court won't revive Democratic-led lawsuit over payments to Trump

Posted October 13, 2020 11:48 a.m. EDT

— The Supreme Court won't revive a lawsuit by Democratic members of Congress who argued that President Donald Trump has been violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which bans foreign payments to a sitting US president.

The court, without comment, on Tuesday let stand a lower court opinion that dismissed the lawsuit.

Democrats argued that Trump violated the clause by maintaining ownership of his companies while they conduct business with foreign governments without seeking congressional consent.

But a federal appeals court said in February that the members of Congress didn't have the legal right to bring the case because they do not constitute a majority in the House or Senate. The Trump administration asked the justices to stay out.

"Petitioners do not constitute a majority of either chamber of Congress and thus are, as the court of appeals emphasized, powerless to approve or deny the President's acceptance of foreign emoluments," government lawyers told the Supreme Court.

The court's order came down as the Senate Judiciary Committee was holding a confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett for a seat on the Supreme Court. The named plaintiff on the case, Richard Blumenthal, sits on the committee.

This emoluments case was one of three ongoing constitutional challenges to Trump and his business, alleging that the President is violating the anti-corruption emoluments clause. Two other emoluments cases attack Trump for his alleged competitive advantage at the Trump-branded real estate empire. Those cases are still moving through the court system.

The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which has faced few judicial interpretations since it was written almost 250 years ago, says "no person holding any office ... shall, without the consent of Congress" accept gifts or other benefits from foreign states.

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