The Supreme Court tossed two lawsuits accusing former President Donald Trump of violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution on Monday, ending a roughly four-year legal battle over the former president’s businesses.
One of the lawsuits was filed by a watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the day after Trump was inaugurated in 2017. The attorneys general of District of Columbia and Maryland brought a similar lawsuit in June of that year, according to Politico.
The lawsuits claimed that Trump was violating the Emoluments Clause prohibition against foreign bribes, which prohibits elected office-holders from receiving payments of any kind from foreign agents without the approval of Congress. The plaintiffs argued that anytime a foreign dignitary or official stayed at or patronized a business owned by Trump, such as the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., that constituted an unapproved payment.
All parties involved in both cases said the issue at the center of the lawsuits is now moot since Trump is out of office. The Supreme Court’s ruling also negated lower court rulings that the cases could move forward with discovery, according to Bloomberg.
The Emoluments Clause had never before been litigated until Trump took office, and the Supreme Court’s decision to toss the case leaves the legal question at the center of the lawsuits open.
CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder suggested in a statement that his organization’s lawsuit was more about optics and creating an appearance of “corruption” than holding the president accountable for an alleged crime.
“This important litigation made the American people aware for four years of the pervasive corruption that came from a president maintaining a global business and taking benefits and payments from foreign and domestic governments,” Bookbinder told Bloomberg in a statement.
In February 2020, a federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit over the Emoluments Clause against Trump brought by 215 Congressional Democrats. A three-judge panel at the court ruled that the Democratic lawmakers lacked standing to bring the suit. As The Daily Wire reported at the time:
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.