Judge al­lows Blu­men­thal suit to move for­ward

Sen­a­tor charges Trump vi­o­lat­ing emol­u­ments clause

The News-Times - - NEWS - By Ana Rade­lat

WASH­ING­TON — A federal court Tues­day gave Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal a vic­tory in his law­suit al­leg­ing that Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s busi­nesses vi­o­late the Con­sti­tu­tion’s ban on gifts or pay­ments from for­eign gov­ern­ments.

Judge Em­met Sullivan of the U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Columbia ruled against the pres­i­dent’s motion to dis­miss the law­suit, which was brought by Blu­men­thal and joined by 200 mem­bers of the Senate and House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Blu­men­thal v. Trump is based on the Con­sti­tu­tion’s emol­u­ments clause, which bars a pres­i­dent from tak­ing pay­ments from for­eign states un­less he re­ceives ap­proval from Congress.

The law­suit ac­cuses Trump of vi­o­lat­ing the clause be­cause his busi­nesses, in­clud­ing his ho­tel in down­town Wash­ing­ton, D.C., have played host to for­eign em­bassy events and vis­it­ing for­eign of­fi­cials.

Al­low­ing the law­suit to move for­ward opens the door for Demo­cratic law­mak­ers to seek financial in­for­ma­tion from the Trump organizati­on, in­clud­ing copies of the organizati­on’s tax re­turns.

“This de­ci­sion is a tremen­dous vic­tory and vin­di­ca­tion of a com­mon sense read­ing of the Con­sti­tu­tion,” Blu­men­thal said in a state­ment Tues­day night. “In an ex­traor­di­nar­ily well­rea­soned opin­ion, the court soundly re­jected the pres­i­dent’s ab­surd ar­gu­ment that he is above the law.”

In Septem­ber, Sullivan ruled that Blu­men­thal and his con­gres­sional col­leagues had stand­ing to sue Trump.

But the judge did not rule at that time on the White House motion to dis­miss the law­suit.

The pres­i­dent’s lawyers ar­gued that the ben­e­fits Trump has re­ceived are not emol­u­ments and that the pro­hi­bi­tion only per­tained to pay­ments the pres­i­dent might re­ceive for action taken in his of­fi­cial ca­pac­ity.

In his or­der filed late Tues­day, how­ever, Sullivan said Blu­men­thal and the other plain­tiffs have a claim against the pres­i­dent for vi­o­lat­ing the For­eign Emol­u­ments Clause. The judge also re­jected Trump’s nar­row def­i­ni­tion of emol­u­ments, find­ing it “un­per­sua­sive and in­con­sis­tent.”

“The Court is per­suaded that the text and struc­ture of the Clause, to­gether with the other uses of the term in the Con­sti­tu­tion, sup­port plain­tiffs’ def­i­ni­tion of ‘Emol­u­ment’ rather than that of the pres­i­dent,” Sullivan wrote.

Be­sides re­ceiv­ing pay­ments from for­eign gov­ern­ments whose diplo­mats and of­fi­cials stay at Trump ho­tels, Sullivan wrote the pres­i­dent has re­ceived li­cens­ing fees paid by for­eign gov­ern­ments for his show “The Ap­pren­tice,” and in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty rights from China.

Blu­men­thal said “the next step should be dis­cov­ery and full dis­clo­sure of all the doc­u­ments and ev­i­dence rel­e­vant to our emol­u­ments claims.”

How­ever, the Jus­tice Depart­ment can try to de­lay or block the process by ask­ing an ap­peals court to in­ter­vene.

Zach Gib­son / Getty Images

U.S. Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal

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