Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Judge Neil Gorsuch after nominating him to the Supreme Court during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, D.C.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) shakes hands with Judge Neil Gorsuch after nominating him to the Supreme Court during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House January 31, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

'Downright Unconstitutional': Gorsuch Slammed for Headlining Event at Trump Hotel

"Especially as many Trump decisions are likely soon to reach the court's docket, a healthy respect for public confidence in the court should have led Justice Gorsuch to demur."

Jake Johnson

In what critics are calling a blatant violation of "basic ethical principles about conflicts of interest," Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch has reportedly agreed to headline the "Defending Freedom Luncheon" next month at the Trump International Hotel, which is the subject of numerous lawsuits that could eventually reach the nation's highest court.

"Hmmm... SCOTUS justice who might be asked to hear case related to Trump hotel will headline event at Trump hotel. "
—Kenneth Vogel, New York Times
Legal experts immediately sounded alarm upon learning that Gorsuch is set to be the featured speaker at the event, which is hosted by the conservative group The Fund for American Studies.

"It's a terrible signal for this group to be holding their meeting at the Trump International Hotel and for a Supreme Court justice to legitimate it by attending," Stanford law professor Deborah L. Rhode told the New York Times.

New York University ethics expert Stephen Gillers agreed, saying in an interview with the Times: "At this highly divisive political moment, especially as many Trump decisions are likely soon to reach the court's docket, one just days later, a healthy respect for public confidence in the court should have led Justice Gorsuch to demur."

Other commentators and legal observers expressed similar concerns on social media, and MoveOn.org quickly began circulating a petition calling on Gorsuch to withdraw from the event.

In an indication of the many potential conflicts the September event raises, Richard Painter—vice chair of Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW)—declined to comment on the Times story because "the status of the hotel [is] at issue" in several pending lawsuits.

CREW, along with other groups and individuals, is suing President Donald Trump on the grounds that he has violated the Constitution's foreign emoluments clause, which bars the president from receiving gifts from foreign governments and prohibits Trump from "receiving benefits from the federal and state governments apart from his congressionally approved compensation."

"Justice Gorsuch should have known better than to sign up as the headliner for an event that will line Donald Trump's pockets in a way that is at best ethically sketchy, and at worst downright unconstitutional."
—Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice
The lawsuit was initially filed in January, just three days into Trump's presidency, and it argues that the president has profited from foreign payments to his hotel.

CREW argued in a recent update that the violations have only continued to pile up.

"We would've liked to be dropping our case because the president got in line with the Constitution," said Noah Bookbinder. "Instead, the violations we anticipated when we brought our case became much more concrete."

By ignoring these concerns, Gorsuch is "legitimizing" both Trump's "conflicts of interest" and the "hosting group's attempt to curry favor," argued Walter Shaub, the former head of the Office of Government Ethics.

In a statement on Friday, Nan Aron, president of Alliance for Justice, added: "Justice Gorsuch should have known better than to sign up as the headliner for an event that will line Donald Trump's pockets in a way that is at best ethically sketchy, and at worst downright unconstitutional."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Dems Sound Alarm as Key US Vaccine Agency 'Running Out of Money'

"We cannot afford to waste another moment and risk the emergence of yet another, even more dangerous variant," Democratic lawmakers write in a new letter.

Jake Johnson ·


UN Officials Warn of 'Record-Shattering Month' for Civilian Deaths in Yemen

Following deadly strikes by the Saudi-led coalition, Oxfam is calling on the U.N. Security Council to condemn attacks on Yemenis and to "inject new urgency" into peace talks.

Jessica Corbett ·


Experts Say Nuclear Energy as Climate Solution Is Total 'Fiction'

"The reality is nuclear is neither clean, safe, or smart; but a very complex technology with the potential to cause significant harm."

Jessica Corbett ·


Air and Water Under Threat as SCOTUS Targets Environmental Laws

"It seems like we have a new conservative supermajority on the court that is much more inclined to do a slash-and-burn expedition through our major environmental laws."

Julia Conley ·


'Historic Turning Point': Cuba Issues Plan for Vaccine Internationalism

"This lifesaving package," said the head of Progressive International's delegation to Cuba, exemplifies public health and science being "placed above private profit and petty nationalism."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo