Among the insurrection, inauguration, and impeachment of the past few weeks, you could be forgiven for forgetting about the emoluments cases. The U.S. Supreme Court did not, however, and disposed of the two remaining cases on its docket. On Monday, Jan. 25, the high court issued orders resulting in their dismissal. Donald Trump will not face any sanction or penalty for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.
Don’t Look a Gift Horse …
There are several emolument prohibitions in the Constitution. These cases chiefly concern the prohibition of accepting foreign gifts. Trump was sued by three groups that claimed foreign guests staying at Trump Hotel properties violated the Constitution. As the Constitution reads, in part, in Article 1, Section 9:
“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.”
If we substitute the word payments or benefits for emoluments, the rule is easier to understand. The various plaintiffs argued that if a foreign official stays at a hotel in which Trump has a financial interest, then paying the bill amounts to a prohibited emolument. The Supreme Court neither agreed nor disagreed with this claim – it ordered the case dismissed on the ground of mootness.
Since Trump is no longer president, there can no longer be a continuation of these cases. Any plaintiffs who still want to press claims under the emoluments clause against Trump will have to refile a lawsuit. A lower court already dismissed another emoluments case brought by Democrats in Congress. The cases left were brought by activist Attorneys General in Maryland and D.C. – Brian Frosh and Karl Racine — and hotel and restaurant competitors.
Suing Trump Is Good for Business
One plaintiff – consisting of hotel and restaurant operators – was hoping for a payday from Trump. The other hoped for a political payday, and they got one. Effectively using taxpayer dollars and the might of their respective offices, they have surely earned untold virtue points in the NeverTrump world. The attorneys issued a joint statement that revealed their true motivations: “He attempted to short-circuit the rules of legal procedure to have our case dismissed and avoid discovery into his finances, arguing that the law did not apply to him.”
Getting discovery access to Trump’s finances has been a persistent goal of Democrats since he refused to release his taxes. Will these two continue to use their state power and public budgets to hurt Trump and boost their stature? After consulting the latest polling, they will have to decide if the juice is worth the squeeze. If the impeachment 2.0 is any indication, there’s still fruit to gather from the Orange Man Bad crowd.
Read more from Scott D. Cosenza.