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Trump Administration Plans To Appeal Latest Emoluments Clause Ruling

The Trump administration is seeking to appeal a recent federal court decision allowing a lawsuit against President Donald Trump to go forward. The suit accuses the president of profiting from foreign governments through his real estate holdings.

U.S. officials taking valuable considerations from foreign governments without congressional permission is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The entrance to the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office building in D.C.

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that a suit brought by congressional Democrats against Trump concerning the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution can proceed. The administration wants that ruling reversed.

According to the suit, some of the income that Trump makes through his real estate holdings, namely his hotels, counts as emoluments — anything of value — from foreign governments.

The suit specifically cites instances like the granting of foreign patents to Trump-owned businesses and foreign diplomats renting Trump hotel rooms en masse as examples of emoluments, Talking Points Memo reports.

Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York reported a 13% increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2018 after eight consecutive quarters of decline. A major contributing factor for the bump, according to the Trump Organization, was a visit by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia.

The Trump International Hotel in the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., has also performed better than expected, buoyed by overseas business.

The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution is more formally known as Article I, Section 9, Clause 8. According to the clause, a U.S. office holder (not just the president) must receive congressional permission to accept anything of value from a foreign government. According to Alexander Hamilton in Federalist #73, the goal of the clause is to prevent bribes from corrupting U.S. officials, especially the president.

For most of the country's history, the clause languished in obscurity, with presidents avoiding emoluments mostly as a matter of custom. Gifts to presidents from foreign governments, for instance, were typically turned over by presidents to the federal government itself. 

In the 20th and early 21st centuries, presidents tended to put their assets in blind trusts during their terms in office, to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Trump chose not to establish a blind trust, though he has asserted that he is not involved in the day-to-day running of his businesses.

Does hotel income count as an emolument? No court has ruled on the question yet. Judge Sullivan did not rule on the merits of the suit, merely that it could proceed.

Lawyers for the president assert that the suit represents an attack on the principle of separation of powers between the branches of the federal government and that a higher court should review the suit before it goes forward.

The case isn't the only one against the president regarding his real estate assets profiting from foreign governments. The attorneys general of Washington, D.C., and Maryland are also suing the president about receiving emoluments. Earlier this year, that case was also allowed to proceed