On Friday, President Trump scored another victory, as a three-judge panel ruled against congressional Democrats, dismissing their emoluments lawsuit, the first case where they sued Trump, that alleged Trump violated the emoluments clause of the Constitution, arguing he had done so because his ownership of certain businesses meant that he was receiving payments from foreign officials without approval from Congress.
The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution states, “no person holding any office … shall, without the consent of Congress” accept gifts or other benefits from foreign states.
Democrats had issued over 35 subpoenas demanding a response from the Trump administration by July 29 after Emmet Sullivan of the US District Court in Washington ruled in January that they could continue with the legal discovery process, but then the Justice Department asked an appeals court to block the lawsuit, which was first filed on June 14, 2017, writing that Trump was “likely to suffer irreparable injury” because of “intrusive discovery into his personal finances based on the public office he holds.”
Trump was enormously persistent in challenging the lawsuit; a district court had originally ruled the members filing the lawsuit had “sustained their burden to show that they have standing to bring their claims.” Trump then moved to certify the district court’s standing order for interlocutory appeal, which was denied in June 2019. Trump again moved to certify the district court’s standing order and was denied again. Then Trump petitioned the appeals court for a writ of mandamus, which was also denied. But the court also remanded the matter “for immediate reconsideration of the motion to certify,” prompting the district court to certify both dismissal denials for interlocutory appeal and stay its proceedings. The appeals court then granted the interlocutory appeal.
As CNN reported, the three judges of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, Karen Henderson, David Tatel and Thomas Griffith, unanimously ruled that the Democrats had no legal standing to challenge the President, writing that their “claim is based entirely on the loss of political power … The district court erred in holding that the Members suffered an injury based on “the President …. Depriving (them) of the opportunity to give or withhold their consent (to foreign emoluments), thereby injuring them in their roles as members of Congress … 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.”
They added, “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. 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.”
On Friday morning, Trump told reporters, “It was another phony case and we won it 3 to nothing,”