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Case Name Blumenthal v. Trump PR-DC-0004
Docket / Court 17-cv-01154 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Presidential/Gubernatorial Authority
Special Collection Take Care
Case Summary
On June 14, 2017, 196 members of Congress (30 members of the Senate and 166 members of the House of Representatives) filed this lawsuit against President Donald Trump in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. They sought a declaratory judgment establishing that President ... read more >
On June 14, 2017, 196 members of Congress (30 members of the Senate and 166 members of the House of Representatives) filed this lawsuit against President Donald Trump in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. They sought a declaratory judgment establishing that President Trump had violated the United States Constitution by accepting monetary and other benefits from foreign states without first obtaining “the Consent of the Congress” as required by the Foreign Emoluments Clause. The members of Congress, represented by the Constitutional Accountability Center, also sought an injunction ordering President Trump not to accept any such foreign benefits without first obtaining the consent of Congress.

President Trump had failed to seek congressional approval for at least some publicly-reported foreign benefits. He had publicly stated that some of the hundreds of entities that he owned had received funds and profits from payments made by foreign governments, and public reporting had confirmed such transactions since he took office. Examples included the president’s acceptance of intellectual property rights from the Chinese government, his acceptance of licensing fees from the government of the United Kingdom for his television show “The Apprentice,” and acceptance of payments from foreign diplomats staying in his hotels in Washington, D.C.—all in 2017. The members of Congress alleged that by accepting these benefits, the president had thwarted the transparency that the “Consent of the Congress” provision was designed to provide; denied them the opportunity, as members of Congress, to give or withhold their consent; and injured them in their constitutional role as members of Congress.

An amended complaint was filed on August 15, 2017, adding additional U.S. Representatives as plaintiffs and amending some of the factual allegations.

On September 15, 2017, President Trump filed a motion to dismiss the complaint for lack of jurisdiction, lack of a cause of action, and failure to state a claim. On September 28, 2018, Judge Emmet G. Sullivan denied this motion in part, finding that the members of Congress had standing to sue the president for violating the Foreign Emoluments Clause, and that the court therefore had jurisdiction to hear the case. 335 F.Supp.3d 45. The court deferred judgment on the other elements of the president’s motion to dismiss.

On April 30, 2019, the court addressed those elements, fully denying the president’s motion to dismiss. 373 F.Supp.3d 191. It found that the members of Congress had properly stated a claim, that they had a cause of action under the Foreign Emoluments Clause, and that the injunctive relief they sought was constitutional. The president sought certification of the judgments (permission from the court to file an immediate appeal); the court denied certification. 382 F.Supp.3d 77.

In a second amended complaint, dated June 25, 2019, the group of plaintiffs included 29 senators and 186 representatives.

On July 19, 2019, the District of Columbia Circuit found that the district court had abused its discretion in denying certification for appeal, but nevertheless declined to compel the district court to certify. Rather, the appeals court remanded the question to the district court with a strong recommendation that the district court opt to certify for appeal. The same day, in response to the D.C. Circuit’s ruling, the district court voluntarily stayed discovery. On August 21, 2019, the district court reversed itself, granting certification for immediate appeal. President Trump then appealed.

On February 7, 2020, the D.C. Circuit reversed the district court, ruling that the members of Congress did not actually have standing to sue. 949 F.3d 14. Because they were suing as individuals, rather than as Congress, they could not assert the institutional interests of Congress, and the court had no jurisdiction over their claims. The court remanded to the district court with instructions to dismiss the case.

The members of Congress appealed to the Supreme Court on July 6, 2020. As of July 17, 2020, the Court’s acceptance of that appeal is pending.

Robert Carnes - 10/27/2017
Robert Carnes - 02/05/2018
Virginia Weeks - 03/11/2018
Erica Becker - 03/14/2019
- 07/16/2020


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Constitutional Clause
Emoluments Clauses
Plaintiff Type
Non-DOJ federal government plaintiff
Private Plaintiff
Causes of Action Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201
Defendant(s) President Donald Trump
Plaintiff Description 29 members of the United States Senate and 186 members of the United States House of Representatives.
Class action status sought No
Class action status granted No
Filed Pro Se No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer Yes
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None yet
Filed 06/14/2017
Case Ongoing Yes
Additional Resources
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  See this case at CourtListener.com (May provide additional documents and, for active cases, real-time alerts)
  Ethics in the Executive Branch: Enforcing the Emoluments Clause
www.law.georgetown.edu
Date: Nov. 1, 2019
By: Claire Gianotti (The Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Who has Standing to Sue the President Over Allegedly Unconstitutional Emoluments?
https://openscholarship.wustl.edu
Date: Dec. 3, 2017
By: Matthew Hall (Washington University Law Review Law Student)
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

  Trump and the Foreign Emoluments Clause
https://www.theusconstitution.org/trump-and-foreign-emoluments-clause
Date: 2017
By: Constitutional Accountability Center
[ Detail ] [ External Link ]

Docket(s)
1:17−cv−01154−EGS (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0004-9000.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/08/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint [ECF# 1]
PR-DC-0004-0001.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/14/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
First Amended Complaint [ECF# 14]
PR-DC-0004-0002.pdf | Detail
Date: 08/15/2017
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 59] (335 F.Supp.3d 45) (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0004-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 09/28/2018
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion [ECF# 67] (373 F.Supp.3d 191) (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0004-0004.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 04/30/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 82] (382 F.Supp.3d 77) (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0004-0005.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 06/25/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Second Amended Complaint [ECF# 87]
PR-DC-0004-0006.pdf | Detail
Date: 06/25/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Order [Ct. of App. ECF# 7] (781 Fed.Appx. 1)
PR-DC-0004-0007.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 07/19/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Memorandum Opinion and Order [ECF# 96] (2019 WL 3948478) (D.D.C.)
PR-DC-0004-0008.pdf | WESTLAW | Detail
Date: 08/21/2019
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
[Order] [Ct. of App. ECF# 42] (949 F.3d 14)
PR-DC-0004-0009.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Date: 02/07/2020
Source: PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
Petition for a Writ of Certiorari [ECF# 20-5]
PR-DC-0004-0010.pdf | Detail
Date: 07/06/2020
Source: Supreme Court website
show all people docs
Judges Griffith, Thomas Beall (D.C. Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-0009
Henderson, Karen LeCraft (D.S.C., D.C. Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-0009
Sullivan, Emmet G. (D.D.C.) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-0003 | PR-DC-0004-0004 | PR-DC-0004-0005 | PR-DC-0004-0008 | PR-DC-0004-9000
Tatel, David S. (D.C. Circuit) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-0009
Plaintiff's Lawyers Frazelle, Brian Rene (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-0001 | PR-DC-0004-0006 | PR-DC-0004-0010 | PR-DC-0004-9000
Gorod, Brianne J. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-0001 | PR-DC-0004-0002 | PR-DC-0004-0006 | PR-DC-0004-0010 | PR-DC-0004-9000
Wydra, Elizabeth B. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-0001 | PR-DC-0004-0006 | PR-DC-0004-0010 | PR-DC-0004-9000
Defendant's Lawyers Humphreys, Bradley Philip (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Lin, Jean (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Powers, James R (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Shumate, Brett (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Other Lawyers Blackman, Joshua Michael (Texas) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Donahue, Sean Hoe (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Goldstein, Thomas C. (Maryland) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Mapes, Katharine M. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Maxman, Melissa H. (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Ray, Robert William (New York) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Roush, Corey William (District of Columbia) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000
Spector, Phillip Michael (Maryland) show/hide docs
PR-DC-0004-9000

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