Judge Tosses Out Lawsuit Targeting Trump’s Foreign Business Dealings

But the constitutional battle over the emoluments clause is far from over.

NewsBase/Associated Press

Late on Thursday, a federal judge in New York threw out a lawsuit claiming that the money President Trump receives from his various businesses violates the Constitution’s limits on emoluments, or payments from foreign governments. 

Judge George Daniel, in a 29-page opinion, wrote that the plaintiffs in the case—Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Restaurant Opportunities Center United, event planner Jill Phaneuf, and hotelier and restaurant owner Eric Goode—had failed to show they had suffered from Trump’s business practices, and therefore lacked standing to bring the case. While Daniels’ ruling leaves the question of whether Trump has in fact violated the Constitution’s emoluments clause to another court, the judge suggested that the decision will ultimately be up to Congress.

Richard Painter, the vice-chair of CREW and a former ethics czar to President George W. Bush, told Mother Jones that CREW was looking for a way to continue the case. “We disagree with the opinion and we’re exploring the options for appeal,” Painter says. “I think that’s really where we basically are right now.”

In its complaint, CREW argued that the time it had spent researching and working to limit Trump’s many conflicts of interest as president—to the determent of the organization’s other other good-government projects—amounted to an injury that would give the group standing to sue. Judge Daniels didn’t buy it. 

“CREW’s entire reason for being is to investigate and combat corruption and reduce the influence of money in politics through, among other things, education, advocacy, and litigation,” Daniels wrote. “CREW is thus not wasting resources by educating the public and issuing statements concerning the effects of Defendant’s alleged constitutional violations or even by filing suit; this is exactly how an organization like CREW spends its resources in the ordinary course.”

Nor was Daniels swayed by the supposed injuries suffered by the hospitality industry owners and  workers. “Nothing in the text or the history of the Emoluments Clauses,” he wrote, “suggests that the Framers intended these provisions to protect anyone from competition.”

There are at least three other lawsuits pending in federal court zeroing in on the issue of President Trump’s business holdings (from which he has yet to divest in any meaningful way) and the conflicts they pose, either on constitutional or business-competition grounds.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

Share your feedback: We’re planning to launch a new version of the comments section. Help us test it.