CREW v. Trump

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CREW v. Trump
United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Full case name Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, et al. v. Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity as President of the United States of America
Date decided Dismissed on December 21, 2017 (filed January 23, 2017)
Citations No. 1:17-cv-00458
Judge sitting George B. Daniels[1]
Counsel for plaintiff(s) Deepak Gupta,[2][3]
Laurence H. Tribe,[3] Erwin Chemerinsky,[3]
Zephyr Teachout,[3]
Jonathan E. Taylor, [4][3],
Matthew Douglas Spurlock[5][3]
Joseph M. Sellers[6][3]
Robert Abraham Braun, [7]
Norman L. Eisen,[3]
Richard W. Painter,[3]
Noah Bookbinder[3]
Adam J. Rappaport,[3]
Stuart C. McPhail,[3]
Rachel Bloomekatz,[3]
Christine E. Webber,[3]
George F. Farah[3]
Plaintiff(s) Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington
Restaurant Opportunities Center
Jill Phaneuf
Eric Goode
Defendant(s) Donald Trump
CREW v. Trump complaint

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Trump, No. 1:17-cv-00458 (S.D.N.Y. 2017), was a case before the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The plaintiffs, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), hotel and restaurant owner Eric Goode, an association of restaurants known as ROC United, and an Embassy Row hotel event booker named Jill Phaneuf allege that the defendant, President 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. CREW filed its complaint on January 23, 2017, shortly after Trump was inaugurated as president. An amended complaint, adding the hotel and restaurant industry plaintiffs, was filed on April 18, 2017.[8] A second amended complaint was filed on May 10, 2017.[9] CREW is represented by several prominent lawyers and legal scholars in the case.[10][11][12]

United States District Judge George B. Daniels dismissed the case on December 21, 2017, holding that plaintiffs lacked standing.[13][14] CREW filed an appeal which has a pending hearing,[15] and separate Emolument Clause lawsuits are pending in other judicial districts.[16][17]


Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington stated that because Trump-owned buildings take in rent, room rentals and other payments from foreign governments, the president has breached the Foreign Emoluments Clause. The Constitution says that "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."[11]. The case also includes a claim under the Domestic Emoluments Clause.

An Emoluments Clause lawsuit directed at a sitting President has never been tested in court, and there is little judicial precedent in this area of constitutional law. The Clause is, however, the subject of a considerable body of precedent from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and the Office of the Comptroller General. The plaintiffs are asking for an injunction and declaratory judgment directed at President Trump requiring that he cease violations of the Emoluments Clauses. On January 23, 2017, after the action was filed in U.S. District Court, Trump rejected the arguments underlying the lawsuit as "Without merit," and "Totally without merit" during his morning press conference at the White House.[18][19]

CREW is represented in the suit by "a group comprised of former White House ethics lawyers, constitutional scholars, and Supreme Court litigators,"[19] including constitutional law professor Laurence H. Tribe of Harvard Law School; Supreme Court litigator Deepak Gupta of Gupta Wessler PLLC; Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California, Berkeley School of Law; Richard Painter, law professor at the University of Minnesota and chief ethics lawyer in the George W. Bush administration; and Zephyr Teachout of Fordham Law School.[10] The United States Department of Justice represents Trump.[11]

Quotes from second amended complaint[edit]

Defendant has violated the Constitution since the opening moments of his presidency and is poised to do so continually for the duration of his administration. Specifically, Defendant has committed and will commit violations of both the Foreign Emoluments Clause and the Domestic Emoluments Clause, involving at least: (a) leases held by foreign-government-owned entities in New York's Trump Tower; (b) room reservations, restaurant purchases, the use of facilities, and the purchase of other services and goods by foreign governments and diplomats, state governments, and federal agencies, at Defendant's Washington, D.C. hotel and restaurant; (c) hotel stays, property leases, restaurant purchases, and other business transactions tied to foreign governments, state governments, and federal agencies at other domestic and international establishments owned, operated, or licensed by Defendant; (d) property interests or other business dealings tied to foreign governments in numerous other countries; (e) payments from foreign-government-owned broadcasters related to rebroadcasts and foreign versions of the television program "The Apprentice" and its spinoffs; and (f) continuation of the General Services Administration lease for Defendant’s Washington, D.C. hotel despite Defendant's breach, and potential provision of federal tax credits in connection with the same property.[20]

District court proceedings[edit]

Trump filed a motion to dismiss on June 9, 2017.[21] on the grounds that the plaintiffs had no right to sue[22] and that the described conduct was not illegal.[23] A response to the motion to dismiss was filed on August 4, 2017, with a DOJ reply due by September 22, 2017.[24] A full answer from DOJ lawyers to the facts alleged in the complaint was due on August 11, 2017.[25] Oral arguments were expected October 18, 2017.[26]

On December 21, 2017, the motion to dismiss was granted; Judge George B. Daniels held that plaintiffs lacked standing.[14]


On February 16, 2018, the dismissal of the suit was appealed by CREW[15], primarily on an economically-informed theory of emolument-related injury to competitors,[27] with all briefs filed by both parties by June 27. The hearing of oral arguments before a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit has been set for October 30, 2018.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Notice of Case Reassignment to Judge George B. Daniels, No. 1:17-cv-00458, S.D.N.Y., 2017-07-11
  2. ^ Order, Docket 15, 2017-02-15
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Second Amended Complaint, Docket 28 (PDF), 2017-05-10, p. 66
  4. ^ Notice of Appearance, Docket 32, 2017-06-05
  5. ^ Notice of Appearance, Docket 9, 2017-01-24
  6. ^ Order, Docket 11, 2017-02-10
  7. ^ Notice of Appearance of pro bono Counsel, Docket 13, 2017-02-14
  8. ^ "Lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the Constitution just expanded". Reuters. 2017-04-18. Archived from the original on 2017-04-21. LaFraniere, Sharon (2017-04-18). "Watchdog Group Expands Lawsuit Against Trump". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-06-11.
  9. ^ "CREW v. Trump Adds New Plaintiff" (Press release). Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. 2017-05-10. Retrieved 2017-06-10.
  10. ^ a b Complaint, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, No. 1:17-cv-00458 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 23, 2017)
  11. ^ a b c Fahrenthold, David A.; O'Connell, Jonathan (January 22, 2017). "Liberal watchdog group sues Trump, alleging he violated constitutional ban". Washington Post.
  12. ^ David A. Fahrenthold; Jonathan O'Connell (January 23, 2017). "What is the 'Emoluments Clause'? Does it apply to President Trump?". Washington Post.
  13. ^ "Judge dismisses lawsuit alleging Trump violated Constitution". December 21, 2017.
  14. ^ a b Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington v. Trump, 17 Civ. 458 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 21, 2017).
  15. ^ a b "Notice Of Appeal Filed In Emoluments Case" (Press release). Washington: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. 2018-02-16. Retrieved 2018-10-10.
  16. ^ Peter Overby, 1 Emoluments Clause Lawsuit Is Dismissed, Trump Faces Others In 2018, Morning Edition, NPR (January 19, 2018).
  17. ^ Peter Overby, Federal Judge Seems Sympathetic To Anti-Corruption Case Against President Trump, Morning Edition, NPR (January 26, 2018).
  18. ^ "[UPDATE] CREW Sues Trump Over Emoluments" (Press release). Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. January 23, 2017.
  19. ^ a b Chris Riback (January 23, 2017). "Why Trump's business conflicts can't—and won't—just be swept aside". CNBC.
  20. ^ Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (2017-05-10). "Second Amended Complaint, Docket 28" (PDF).
  21. ^ "Copy of Docket". Retrieved 2017-06-12.
  22. ^ Geewax, Marilyn (2017-06-09). "Trump Administration Calls For Lawsuit About His Businesses To Be Dismissed". NPR. Retrieved 2017-06-10.
  23. ^ Smith, Allan (2017-06-10). "Justice Department argues it's fine for Trump to take payments from foreign governments, citing George Washington". Business Insider. Retrieved 2017-06-10.
  24. ^ "Order" (PDF), CREW v. Trump (Court Filing), S.D.N.Y., No. 1:17-cv-00458 (Docket 47), 2017-07-07, retrieved 2017-08-06 – via Recap (PACER current docket viewPaid subscription required)
  25. ^ "Order" (PDF), CREW v. Trump (Court Filing), S.D.N.Y., No. 1:17-cv-00458 (Docket 29), 2017-05-11, retrieved 2017-06-12 – via Recap (PACER current docket viewPaid subscription required)
  26. ^ Beavers, Olivia (October 15, 2017). "Oral arguments this week in lawsuit against Trump over Emoluments Clause". The Hill. Retrieved 16 October 2017.
  27. ^ Brief of Plaintiffs-Appellants, filed April 24, 2018, 2d Cir. Docket 18-0474, Document 27
  28. ^ CREW v. Trump (2d Cir.) ("Argument calendar for October 30"). Text

External links[edit]