Almost 200 Democratic members of Congress sued President Trump on Wednesday, alleging that he is violating the Constitution by accepting foreign money through his business empire.The lawsuit says that Trump is in breach of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, which says that the president may not accept payments from foreign governments without the consent of Congress.
The suit was filed by 196 members of Congress – 30 from the Senate and 166 from the House.
Representative John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, said it was the largest number of plaintiffs in any congressional lawsuit against the president in the nation’s history.
The complaint says that the Emoluments Clause was meant to ensure “that our nation’s leaders would not be corrupted by foreign influence or put their own financial interests over the national interest.”
THE COMPLAINT Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative John Conyers, Jr., along with 194 othermembers of Congress, for their complaint against Donald J. Trump, in his official capacity asPresident of the United States of America, allege as follows: 17 Case 1:17-cv-01154 Document 1 Filed 06/14/17 Page 18 of 54 I.INTRODUCTION 1. Plaintiffs, 30 members of the United States Senate and 166 members of the UnitedStates House of Representatives, bring this action against President Donald J. Trump to obtainrelief from the President’s continuing violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the UnitedStates Constitution, which was designed to ensure that our nation’s leaders would not be corruptedby foreign influence or put their own financial interests over the national interest. To achieve thoseaims, the Clause provides that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the UnitedStates], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, orTitle, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”1 Through this measure, thenation’s Founders invested members of Congress with an important role in preventing thecorruption and foreign influence that the Founders sought to avoid—permitting federalofficeholders to accept otherwise prohibited “Emolument[s]” only if they first received “theConsent of the Congress.” 2. Defendant, President Donald J. Trump, has a financial interest in vast businessholdings around the world that engage in dealings with foreign governments and receive benefitsfrom those governments. By virtue of that financial interest, Defendant has accepted, ornecessarily will accept, “Emolument[s]” from “foreign State[s]” while holding the office ofPresident of the United States. 3. Because the Foreign Emoluments Clause requires the President to obtain “theConsent of the Congress” before accepting otherwise prohibited “Emolument[s],” Plaintiffs, asmembers of Congress, must have the opportunity to cast a binding vote that gives or withholds their “Consent” before the President accepts any such “Emolument.”
Despite this constitutional mandate, Defendant has chosen to accept numerous
benefits from foreign states without first seeking or obtaining congressional approval. Indeed, hehas taken the position that the Foreign Emoluments Clause does not require him to obtain suchapproval before accepting benefits arising out of exchanges between foreign states and hisbusinesses. Because Defendant has failed to come to Congress and seek its consent for at leastsome foreign emoluments that have been the subject of public reporting, it is impossible to knowwhether Defendant has also accepted, or plans to accept, other foreign emoluments that have notyet been made public. By accepting these benefits from foreign states without first seeking orobtaining congressional approval, Defendant has thwarted the transparency that the “Consent ofthe Congress” provision was designed to provide.
5. Moreover, by accepting these benefits from foreign states without first seeking orobtaining congressional approval, Defendant has also denied Plaintiffs the opportunity to give orwithhold their “Consent” to his acceptance of individual emoluments and has injured them in theirroles as members of Congress. 6. To redress that injury, Plaintiffs seek declaratory relief establishing that Defendantviolates the Constitution when he accepts any monetary or nonmonetary benefit—any “present,Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever”—from a foreign state without first obtaining“the Consent of the Congress.” Plaintiffs also seek injunctive relief ordering Defendant not toaccept any such benefits from a foreign state without first obtaining “the Consent of the Congress.”