(Update) Draining the Trump Swamp: Democrats file Emoluments Clause lawsuit

I posted about these lawsuits the other day, Draining the Trump Swamp: Emoluments Clause lawsuits are heating up, which referenced another lawsuit yet to be filed by Democrats in Congress.

That lawsuit has now been filed. Democrats in Congress Sue Trump Over Foreign Business Dealings:

Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress filed a federal lawsuit (.pdf) on Wednesday accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by profiting from business dealings with foreign governments.

The plaintiffs — believed to be the most members of Congress to ever sue a sitting president — contend that Mr. Trump has ignored a constitutional clause that prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts, or emoluments, from foreign powers without congressional approval.

It is the third such lawsuit against Mr. Trump on the issue since he became president, part of a coordinated effort by the president’s critics to force him to reveal his business entanglements and either sell off his holdings or put them in a blind trust.

Like the previous two federal lawsuits, this one, filed in federal court in Washington, accuses Mr. Trump of illegally profiteering from his businesses in a variety of ways, including collecting payments from foreign diplomats who stay in his hotels and accepting trademark approvals from foreign governments for his company’s goods and services.

But it creates a new group of plaintiffs who claim the president’s actions have damaged them: Democratic members of the House and Senate who say they have been wrongly deprived of their constitutional right to rule on whether Mr. Trump can accept such economic benefits from foreign governments, according to Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, who led the effort with Representative John Conyers Jr. of Michigan.

Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, provides: “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 founders ensured that federal officeholders would not decide for themselves whether particular emoluments were likely to compromise their own independence or lead them to put personal interest over national interest,” the lawsuit states.”

“An officeholder, in short, should not be the sole judge of his own integrity.”

Mr. Trump now faces three distinct groups of legal opponents, each alleging they have been harmed in a different way. Earlier this year, private individuals who own hotels or restaurants or book events at hotels that they say compete with Mr. Trump’s joined a lawsuit filed in federal court in New York by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a nonprofit watchdog group.

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[E]ach new set of plaintiffs makes it harder for the Justice Department to defend the president on the grounds that his opponents have no legal standing to sue him, Mr. Trump’s critics said. “It puts the government in the position of saying that nobody can address this — not hotel competitors, not states, not members of Congress,” said Norman Eisen, the chairman of CREW, which started the legal efforts. “And you cannot get away with that in a rule-of-law system.”

Mr. Blumenthal, a former Connecticut attorney general, said the president’s companies did business in about 20 countries but were shrouded in secrecy, making it impossible for Congress to carry out its constitutional duty of determining whether he was receiving illegal benefits or emoluments. “The truth is we have no clue about the president’s investors,” he said in an interview with reporters Tuesday. “How much is Russian money?”

“What we are seeking first and foremost is disclosure,” he said. “We cannot consent to what we don’t know.”

* * *

Unlike the previous two lawsuits, the lawsuit by members of Congress does not accuse Mr. Trump of violating the so-called domestic emoluments clause that bans him from accepting benefits from states or the federal government. That is because the Constitution gives Congress no oversight role there.

A total of 196 members of Congress — nearly seven in 10 Senate Democrats and nearly nine in 10 House Democrats, but not a single Republican — joined the suit, Mr. Blumenthal said. He said members of Congress have previously sued presidents, alleging that they had been wrongly deprived of their right to carry out their constitutional duty.

But the number who joined the emoluments lawsuit is unprecedented, because the scope of the president’s business interests — and his alleged violations — “is truly unprecedented,” he said.

Since the Emoluments Clause expressly states that it requires “the consent of the Congress,” it would appear that members of Congress are the class of plaintiffs who have standing to sue. How the lawsuit proceeds from there is unprecedented and unpredictable.

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