The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear a lawsuit case brought by congressional Democrats who alleged President Donald Trump was illegally profiting from his business interests in violation of the anti-corruption provisions in the U.S. Constitution.
The justices refused to hear an appeal by 215 Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives of a February ruling by a lower court that lawmakers had no standing to bring their suit, which pointed to Trump profiting from foreign government officials choosing to spend money at Trump hotels as violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, Reuters reported.
The Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. is the primary property Democrats have singled out as one some foreign officials choose to patronize while they are in the nation’s capital.
The hotel is located blocks away from the White House and was opened shortly before Trump was elected in 2016.
The emoluments lawsuits have accused Trump of making himself vulnerable to bribery by foreign governments because he has retained ownership of his business interests.
The Supreme Court’s denial to hear the case means the petition failed to get the support of at least four judges and leaves in place the lower court ruling, according to The Hill.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit judges found in February that the lawsuit is really a political matter for Congress and the president to work out, not the judiciary.
“The Members can, and likely will, continue to use their weighty voices to make their case to the American people, their colleagues in the Congress and the President himself, all of whom are free to engage that argument as they see fit,” the judges wrote. “But we will not — indeed we cannot — participate in this debate.”
“The Constitution permits the Judiciary to speak only in the context of an Article III case or controversy and this lawsuit presents neither,” they added.
The provision reads, “No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
The Democrats’ lawsuit argued “that foreign diplomats’ patronage of the president’s hotels opens Trump up to the kind of foreign influence that the framers had sought to avoid, and that the president had not consulted Congress on his business dealings,” according to The Hill.
The D.C. Circuit judges noted that the Senate and House Democrats who sued Trump represented a minority in both chambers, and therefore the lawmakers had no standing to bring the case.
“[O]ur conclusion is straightforward because the Members — 29 Senators and 186 Members of the House of Representatives — do not constitute a majority of either body and are, therefore, powerless to approve or deny the President’s acceptance of foreign emoluments,” the court decision reads.
In their appeal, lawmakers said that the D.C. Circuit misapplied the 1997 precedent set by a Supreme Court decision that six members of Congress lacked the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law.
Justice Department lawyers countered that the lower court correctly ruled that “federal legislators generally lack standing to sue to enforce the asserted institutional interests of Congress.”
Trump faces two similar lawsuits brought by the liberal nonprofit Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and the attorneys general for Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
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