The US Supreme Court on Monday closed the door on two separate lawsuits alleging that former president Donald Trump violated the “emoluments clauses” of the US Constitution by financially benefiting from his properties in New York and Washington while in political office.
The court, in a series of short orders, found the cases to be moot now that Trump is no longer president. The court ordered the judgments vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss. In declining to hear the cases, the court indicated it would not rule on the three emoluments clauses found within the Constitution; an area of law rarely examined at the appellate level.
The court’s orders concern two cases stemming from complaints accusing Trump and his organization of taking payments from domestic and foreign officials staying at the Trump International Hotel and patronizing other Trump family-owned businesses. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a public watchdog group, filed its initial complaint in January 2017, just days following Trump’s inauguration.
The Domestic Emoluments Clause (a.k.a. the Presidential Emoluments Clause) prohibits the president from receiving “any other emolument”—compensation for services or labor—from foreign or domestic states, beyond the president’s official salary. The other clause, the Foreign Emoluments Clause, bars “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state” without Congressional approval.
The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has monitored potential emolument issues since Trump assumed the presidency. “President Trump is defying warnings from Republican and Democratic ethics experts and refusing to do what every previous president has done for decades—divest himself of this ownership interests, liquate his business assets, and place them in a truly blind trust operated by an independent entity,” said the committee in a statement from the beginning of Trump’s term.
Last February a federal appeals court dismissed another emoluments lawsuit brought by 215 Democratic congressional members.