President Donald Trump’s apparent push to host next year’s G7 summit at his Doral property in Miami, Florida, immediately prompted cries that doing so would violate the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution.
The clause prohibits American office-holders, including the president, from personally profiting from foreign governments and has been a topic of discussion since Trump took office, given his myriad business interests.
Here is the latest in two ongoing lawsuits targeting the president over possible violations of the Constitution:
A case brought in 2018 by more than 200 Congressional Democrats is marching forward. In court filings, the lawmakers argued that “Trump, has a financial interest in vast business holdings around the world that engage in dealings with foreign governments and receive benefits from those governments. By virtue of that financial interest, [Trump] has accepted, or necessarily will accept, “Emolument[s]” from “foreign State[s]” while holding the office of President of the United States.”
And that because he didn’t seek Congressional approval, “it is impossible to know whether Defendant has also accepted, or plans to accept other foreign emoluments that have not been made public,” the complaint said.
The Democrats argue that under the emoluments clause, Congress must consent to all foreign payments — or emoluments — his businesses earn. The lawmakers are suing for standing to sign off on any foreign business conducted by any of President Trump’s entities.
Last month, the two lawmakers leading the charge, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rep. Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., announced that they had begun issuing subpoenas as part of the discovery process.
The 37 subpoenas issued “to a number of Trump business enterprises, including the Trump Organization, [seek] information about foreign government payments accepted by six Trump properties, as well as trademarks granted to Trump businesses by foreign governments.”
Justice Department attorneys representing the president asked the court to pause their compliance with the subpoenas pending an appeal, which the judge granted ahead of the Trump Organization’s deadline to hand over records.
Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal attorney, has repeatedly accused those seeking to target the president over alleged emoluments concerns of engaging in “presidential harassment.”
A second suit brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, DC, sputtered to a halt last month when a panel of federal appeals court judges threw out their case, which accused the president of illegally profiting from his Trump International Hotel in D.C. by accepting money from foreign governments.
The judge ruled that the attorneys general did not have standing in that case.
On Monday, Trump reignited the case with his appeals to host next year’s G-7 summit at his Florida Hotel.
“Each country can have their own villa, or their own bungalow,” Trump said at the conclusion of the 2019 summit in Biarritz, France Monday. Trump added that he does not “want to make any money” off of a potential G-7 at his property.
Later Monday evening, within hours of the president’s comments about Doral in Biarritz – the attorneys general announced that they had filed an appeal the Fourth Circuit for a rehearing before the full court.
“We are asking the entire Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to rehear our case so that we can keep fighting to stop President Trump from violating the Constitution’s original anti-corruption protections,” DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh wrote in a statement on Monday night.
“We strongly believe that the District of Columbia and Maryland are harmed when the President illegally profits from his office. The way the panel short-circuited this litigation—without a final judgment from the trial court and without that court’s permission—is truly unprecedented.”