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'Holiday Gift to Trump': Federal Judge Dismisses Emoluments Suit Against President

Ruling doesn't say Trump isn't violating the emoluments clause but that the plaintiffs lack standing

"The Constitution's emoluments clauses are core protections against destabilizing foreign and domestic corruption," said CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder.  (Photo: igorvolsky/Twitter)

"The Constitution's emoluments clauses are core protections against destabilizing foreign and domestic corruption," said CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder.  (Photo: igorvolsky/Twitter)

A watchdog group is vowing to press forward after a federal on Thursday dismissed its lawsuit against President Donald for allegedly violating the Constitution's emoluments clause.

Manhattan-based Judge George Daniels said the plaintiffs lack the necessary legal standing.

The suit was led by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which called the ruling "a setback" but said it would "not walk away from this serious and ongoing constitutional violation."

"The Constitution is explicit on these issues, and the president is clearly in violation," says CREW.Deepak Gupta, one of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, said, "We respectfully disagree with the district court's decision. There is no question that there will be an appeal, and our legal team is in the process of exploring our next steps."

CREW argued (pdf) that Trump's "business interests are creating countless conflicts of interest, as well as unprecedented influence by foreign governments." The suit singled out:

a) leases held by foreign-government-owned entities in New York's Trump Tower; (b) room reservations and the use of venues and other services and goods by foreign governments and diplomats at Defendant's Washington, D.C. hotel; (c) hotel stays, property leases, and other business transactions tied to foreign governments at other domestic and international establishments owned, operated, or licensed by Defendant; (d) payments from foreign-government-owned broadcasters related to rebroadcasts and foreign versions of the television program "The Apprentice" and its spinoffs; and (e) property interests or other business dealings tied to foreign governments in numerous other countries.

Judge Daniels, however, ruled against CREW's argument that the group had been harmed by Trump's actions, and wrote, "As the only political branch with the power to consent to violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, Congress is the appropriate body to determine whether, and to what extent, Defendant's conduct unlawfully infringes on that power."

NPR highlights in a twitter thread that the ruling "doesn't address the question of whether Trump is or isn't violating the emoluments clause but simply says CREW does not have the legal standing to sue the president."

"The Constitution's emoluments clauses are core protections against destabilizing foreign and domestic corruption," said CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder. "We never thought we would have to sue the president to enforce them; we hoped that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office. He did not, and we were forced to bring our landmark Emoluments case because the plaintiffs in this case—and the American people—have been directly harmed by the President’s violations."

"The Constitution is explicit on these issues, and the president is clearly in violation. Our legal team is weighing its options and will soon lay out our decisions on how to proceed," he continued.

According to law experts Leah Litman and Daniel Hemel, "For the time being, the district court's decision is a holiday gift to President Trump, who avoids (or, at least, delays) discovery and further litigation regarding his business dealings with foreign and state governments. But this partridge might not stay in the pear tree for long."

"President Trump still faces emoluments lawsuits in the federal district courts in the District of Columbia and Maryland that rely on different standing theories. And even in this case, Judge Daniels's reasoning is vulnerable to reversal on an appeal to the Second Circuit," they wrote.

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