Over 200 Politicians Just Sued Trump

June 16th 2017

Ethan Simon

On Wednesday, a group of almost 200 Democratic senators and representatives sued Donald Trump—on the grounds that he had ignored the emoluments clause of the Constitution. According to the New York Times, it is believed to be the largest group of members of Congress ever to sue a sitting president. The suit was filed in Federal Court in Washington, D.C.

Donald Trump

The Democrats are claiming that President Trump has deprived them of their constitutional authority to decide which benefits he can accept from foreign governments. This is now the third suit Trump faces over his violation of the clause. 

What is the emoluments clause?

The emoluments clause has been discussed a lot lately with regards to President Trump. Basically, it says that an elected official cannot accept "emoluments"—an outdated word for a salary, fee, or profit—from any foreign governments. According to Democratic members of Congress who have brought the suit, Trump has violated this clause by using the office to benefit his businesses. The texts of the clause—found in Article 1, Section 9—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." 

Cory Booker


That "Consent of the Congress" part is crucial.

The Democrats are arguing that Trump's flagrant abuse of the Constitution is depriving Congress of a specifically enumerated power vested in the Legislative Branch. 

However, some have argued that the legal basis for the Democrats' claim is shaky:







Trump is currently facing two similar suits. 

The first was filed by Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington—or CREW for short—a local watchdog organization. They filed the suit at 9am on Monday, January 23—literally the first moment the courts were open after Trump's inauguration day. Then, earlier this week, the Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia sued Trump, citing "unprecedented constitutional violations." 

Maryland AG Brian Frosh

Is anything going to come of this?

It's hard to say. While 200 members of Congress suing the president certainly sends a message, the chances of victory in the suit aren't totally clear. 

But it's possible a lawsuit could force Trump to finally divest from his business holdings. And according to Slate, CREW's lawsuit also has the secondary goal of finally making his tax returns public—which could prove disastrous for the President, no matter what the outcome of the lawsuits.