First Subpoenas Issued in Congressional Foreign Emoluments Clause Lawsuit Against Trump

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Two lawsuits citing what is known as the Emoluments Clause in the US Constitution, Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 have been filed against Trump.

Otherwise known as the “Title of Nobility Clause,” it states:

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.”

Emolument is defined by Webster’s as: “the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites”.


One lawsuit, out of Maryland, which has been put on pause, is more narrowly defined towards Trump’s DC Hotel, but the other one, out of DC, in front of US District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan, is brought by 213 members of congress, plus Judiciary oversight committee member U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) alleging that Trump has refused to “present his business holdings to Congress for their approval,” and that by doing so, Trump has “deprived them of a vote,” as the US Constitution requires.

Judge Sullivan ruled in September 2018 that “Members have standing to sue President Trump because he has deprived each of the plaintiffs of their right, explicitly guaranteed in the text of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, to vote on whether the President may accept foreign government benefits before he accepts them.”

Since Trump has refused to divest his business interests as well as refused to enter them into a blind trust, he continues to and can continue to at any time withdraw funds from any of those business dealings.

In late April, in a 48-page ruling, Sullivan ordered in a that the Congressional plaintiffs may begin seeking information from the Trump Organization, according to a Washington Post report at that time.

The President then moved for an immediate appeal of the court’s orders and for a stay of discovery. On June 25, 2019, the district court denied the President’s motion, ordering the discovery process to begin. Judge Sullivan explained that, in keeping with the schedule proposed by the parties, “discovery will conclude and cross motions for summary judgment will be fully briefed within six months.”

Constitutional Accountability Center

Members of Congress are being represented by Constitutional Accountability Center.

For further reading on the background, a case time-line, which was first filed on June 14, 2017, and an outline on their brief and case summary, including examples of alleged unconstitutional emolument are presented on their website.

On Monday, thirty-seven (37) judicial subpoenas were dropped on Trump businesses as well as the Trump Organization.

[WASHINGTON, DC] — After Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a ruling allowing U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), and more than two hundred Congressional plaintiffs to proceed with discovery in their effort to hold President Trump accountable for violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, thirty-seven judicial subpoenas were issued to a number of Trump business enterprises, including the Trump Organization, seeking information about foreign government payments accepted by six Trump properties, as well as trademarks granted to Trump businesses by foreign governments.

In a ruling rejecting President Trump’s attempts to delay discovery in the case, Judge Sullivan recognized that discovery and summary judgment briefing in the case can be complete by early next year. In response, Members of Congress moved swiftly in serving targeted document requests for financial documents necessary to prove the allegations in the complaint that President Trump is violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause, including corporate tax returns. The Members of Congress are represented in this case by the Constitutional Accountability Center.


“Our goal is simple and straightforward – stopping President Trump from putting a “For Sale’ sign in Russian on the door to the Oval Office. Now that we have been rightfully granted the opportunity to proceed with discovery, we are seeking a targeted set of documents to obtain the information that we need to ensure that the President can no longer shirk his constitutional responsibility,” Blumenthal said in-part in a statement.

Nadler commented, “The President’s loyalty to the United States must be complete and undivided…President Trump has flagrantly ignored the Foreign Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, but we do not yet know the extent of his violations. We are taking an important step towards obtaining key documents to under the full scope of Trump’s foreign business dealings.”

For a full reading: FIRST JUDICIAL SUBPOENAS SERVED IN FOREIGN EMOLUMENTS CLAUSE LAWSUIT; Lawsuit brought by Blumenthal, Nadler & 213 other members of Congress; by House Judiciary Dems. July 8, 2019. Medium.

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