- The Washington Times
Monday, December 9, 2019

The federal appeals court in Washington heard arguments Monday in a legal battle brought by Democratic lawmakers concerning President Trump’s business dealings when foreign governments spending money at Trump properties.

A three-judge panel for the federal circuit court in the nation’s capital heard one of the cases against Mr. Trump concerning the Emoluments Clause, a rarely litigated clause in the Constitution preventing elected officials from receiving gifts from foreign governments in exchange for official acts.

An attorney for the Justice Department, defending the president, argued members of Congress shouldn’t be able to bring the suit and rather could pass legislation disapproving of Mr. Trump’s business dealings.

“The only role that the Constitution gives Congress with respect to the foreign emoluments clause is to allow them,” said Hashim Mooppan, according to several media reports.

The judges appeared to be skeptical about the ability for individual members of Congress to bring the case instead of the full congressional body. The lawsuit involves more than 200 Democratic members of Congress who sued the president in 2017.

The judges, though, did seem concerned about ways members of Congress can exercise oversight or put a check on the president with respect to the Emoluments Clause.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut Democrat, who is involved in the challenge, told reporters Congress didn’t need to sue as one entity.

“Individual members of Congress simply cannot do their job,” Mr. Blumenthal told reporters, The Washington Post reported. “If there’s no standing, then who enforces it?”

Lawyers representing the lawmakers said Congress should have had to approve any benefits afforded to the president.

Democrats say government officials from Saudi Arabia have spent nearly $300,000 at the Trump hotel in Washington, an example of the president profiting in violation of the emoluments provision.

The Justice Department contends foreign governments spending money at Trump hotels does not violate the provision, differentiating it from a foreign government directly giving the president money or a gift.

Attorneys general from Virginia and New York are scheduled to argue a similar challenge about Trump businesses in their states Thursday at the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond.

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