Blumenthal v. Trump

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Blumenthal v. Trump
Seal of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.png
United States District Court for the District of Columbia
Full case nameRichard Blumenthal, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States of America
Date decidedPending (filed June 14, 2017)
CitationsNo. 1:17-cv-01154
Judge sittingEmmet G. Sullivan
Counsel for plaintiff(s)Elizabeth Bonnie Wydra,[1][2] Brian Rene Frazelle,[3][2] Brianne Jenna Gorod[4][2]
Plaintiff(s)Richard Blumenthal and 195 more Senators and Representatives
Defendant(s)Donald Trump

Richard Blumenthal, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-01154 (D.D.C. 2017), is a case pending before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia.

The plaintiffs, 30 Senators and 166 Representatives,[5] allege that the defendant, Donald Trump, is in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, a constitutional provision that bars the president or any other federal official from taking gifts or payments from foreign governments without the approval of Congress, of which the plaintiffs form a minority of about 35%.

With lawyers from the Constitutional Accountability Center, the plaintiffs filed their complaint on June 14, 2017,[6] shortly after similar lawsuits from watchdog groups, economic competitors, and state and local governments made the news.[7][8] Oral arguments were heard in June 2018, mostly arguing over standing to sue.[9]


Alexander Hamilton, one of the framers of the Constitution, was concerned about foreign corruption of the new United States.[10] Towards that end, the Foreign Emoluments Clause can be seen as a measure to prevent corruption, but one that has yet to be interpreted by the courts.[11][12] So the question of how to ensure that foreign payments to the President or organizations which exist for the benefit of the President are not unconstitutional unauthorized payments from foreign governments has not yet been the basis of case law.

The Ranking Member of the Constitution Subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Richard Blumenthal, the similarly situated Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, Jr., 29 other senators and 165 other representatives[13] allege that this behavior impedes their constitutional right to be advised of such foreign payments and their duty to weigh in on potentially unauthorized emoluments.

Quotes from complaint[edit]

Because Defendant has failed to come to Congress and seek consent before accepting foreign emoluments that have been confirmed through public reporting, it is impossible to know whether Defendant is accepting other foreign emoluments that have not yet been made public. Indeed, through his personal attorney, Defendant has indicated that he does not believe the Constitution requires him to seek or obtain Congress’s consent before accepting benefits arising out of exchanges between foreign states and his businesses.[14]

Comparison to previously filed suits[edit]

Three suits make substantially similar claims that President Trump violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution.[15][16] The cases differ most substantially in the character of the plaintiffs. A defendant's strongest argument is that the plaintiffs have no standing (right to sue). In CREW v. Trump, the plaintiffs are private commercial interests, who allege they have been hurt by the President's actions. In D.C. and Maryland v. Trump, the plaintiffs are government entities. In this case, Blumenthal v. Trump, the plaintiffs are 196 current members of Congress to which, by the text of the Constitution, the President is required to give notice and from which he must get consent for emoluments. This constitutional requirement for the consent of Congress may give the plaintiffs of this lawsuit standing to sue for an infringed right to review the President's foreign-sourced income where previous lawsuits by watchdog groups, business competitors and state and local governments face different hurdles to demonstrate standing to sue.


The initial case was filed on June 14, 2017.[5] The defendant was served immediately,[17] but because President Trump was being sued in his official capacity, no official action was required before August 14, 2017.[18] On September 15, 2017, the government filed a motion to dismiss the case.[6] Various supplemental briefs were filed between September and April 2018.[6][19] Oral arguments were heard in June 2018, mostly debating whether lawmakers have standing to sue the president.[9] U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled on September 28, 2018, that the plaintiff members of Congress have standing to sue in the case, but left for another day any ruling on other arguments raised by the Department of Justice's motion to dismiss.[20] On April 30th, 2019, Judge Sullivan denied Trump's motion to dismiss and further ruled that the plaintiff members of Congress had standing to sue, that there was grounds for injunctive relief against the President, and that the relief sought was constitutional.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Notice of Appearance, Docket 2, June 14, 2017
  2. ^ a b c "Complaint, Docket 1" (PDF). June 14, 2017. p. 54. Retrieved June 16, 2017.
  3. ^ Notice of Appearance, Docket 3, June 14, 2017
  4. ^ Notice of Appearance, Docket 4, June 14, 2017
  5. ^ a b "Complaint, Docket 1" (PDF). June 14, 2017. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  6. ^ a b c "Trump and the Foreign Emoluments Clause" (Press release). Constitutional Accountability Center. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  7. ^ LaFraniere, Sharon (June 9, 2017). "Justice Dept. Wants Lawsuit Against President Trump Thrown Out". New York Times. Retrieved June 14, 2017. Davis, Aaron C.; Tumulty, Karen (June 12, 2017). "D.C. and Maryland AGs: Trump 'flagrantly violating' emoluments clause". Washington Post. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  8. ^ Bykowicz, Julie (June 14, 2017). "Democrats in Congress are the latest to sue President Trump". Boston Globe. Associated Press. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Gerstein, Josh (June 7, 2018). "Lawmakers battle Trump in court over emoluments". Politico. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  10. ^ Hamilton, Alexander (December 14, 1787), "The Same Subject Continued: Other Defects of the Present Confederation", The Federalist Papers (22), retrieved June 15, 2017, Evils of this description [bribery to further foreign ends] ought not to be regarded as imaginary. One of the weak sides of republics, among their numerous advantages, is that they afford too easy an inlet to foreign corruption.
  11. ^ Delahunty, Robert J. "Emoluments Clause". The Heritage Guide to The Constitution. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  12. ^ Eisen, Norman L.; Painter, Richard; Tribe, Laurence H. (December 16, 2016). "The Emoluments Clause: Its Text, Meaning, and Application to Donald J. Trump" (PDF). Governance Studies at Brookings. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  13. ^ "Complaint, Docket 1" (PDF). June 14, 2017. pp. 1–20. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  14. ^ "Complaint, Docket 1" (PDF). June 14, 2017. p. 36. Retrieved June 15, 2017.
  15. ^ United States Constitution, Article I, Section 9, Clause 8, no person holding any office of profit or trust under [the United States], 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.
  16. ^ CREW v. Trump, D.C. and Maryland v. Trump
  17. ^ Summons (1) Issued Electronically as to DONALD J. TRUMP, Docket 5, June 14, 2017 Summons (2) Issued Electronically as to U.S. Attorney and U.S. Attorney General, Docket 8, June 14, 2017 FRCP Rule 4(i)(2).
  18. ^ FRCP Rule 12(a)(2). FRCP Rule 6(1)(C).
  19. ^ "U.S. Civil Court Records for the District of Columbia, Case Number 1:17-cv-01154". Open Public Records. Retrieved August 23, 2018.
  20. ^ Stanglin, Doug (September 29, 2018). "Federal judge: Democrats in Congress can sue Trump in emoluments case". USA Today. Washington, D.C. Retrieved October 1, 2018.
  21. ^ Thomsen, Jacqueline (April 30, 2019). "Federal judge rejects Trump request to dismiss Democrats' Emoluments Clause lawsuit". Washington, D.C. Retrieved April 30, 2019.

External links[edit]