The Supreme Court has declined to hear a lawsuit case brought by congressional Democrats who alleged President Donald Trump was illegally profiting from his business interests in violation of the anti-corruption provisions in the U.S. Constitution.
The justices refused to hear an appeal by 215 Democrats in the Senate and House of Representatives of a February ruling by a lower court that lawmakers had no standing to bring their suit, which pointed to Trump profiting from foreign government officials choosing to spend money at Trump hotels as violations of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, Reuters reported.
The justices refused to hear an appeal by 215 Senate and House of Representatives Democrats of a lower court ruling that found that the lawmakers lacked the necessary legal standing to bring the case that focused on the president’s ownership of the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
Democrats had accused Trump of violating the Constitution’s rarely tested “emoluments” clauses that bar presidents from taking gifts or payments from foreign and state governments without congressional approval.
The lead plaintiff in the case is U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
The emoluments lawsuits have accused Trump of making himself vulnerable to bribery by foreign governments because he has retained ownership of his business interests.
The Supreme Court’s denial to hear the case means the petition failed to get the support of at least four judges and leaves in place the lower court ruling.
“The Members can, and likely will, continue to use their weighty voices to make their case to the American people, their colleagues in the Congress and the President himself, all of whom are free to engage that argument as they see fit,” the judges wrote. “But we will not — indeed we cannot — participate in this debate.”
“The Constitution permits the Judiciary to speak only in the context of an Article III case or controversy and this lawsuit presents neither,” they added.
The case alleged Trump violated Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution, The Hill reported.
The provision reads, “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.”
The Democrats’ lawsuit argued “that foreign diplomats’ patronage of the president’s hotels opens Trump up to the kind of foreign influence that the framers had sought to avoid, and that the president had not consulted Congress on his business dealings,” according to The Hill.
The D.C. Circuit judges noted that the Senate and House Democrats who sued Trump represented a minority in both chambers, and therefore the lawmakers had no standing to bring the case.
“[O]ur conclusion is straightforward because the Members — 29 Senators and 186 Members of the House of Representatives — do not constitute a majority of either body and are, therefore, powerless to approve or deny the President’s acceptance of foreign emoluments,” the court decision reads.
In their appeal, lawmakers said that the D.C. Circuit misapplied the 1997 precedent set by a Supreme Court decision that six members of Congress lacked the legal standing to challenge the constitutionality of the law.
Justice Department lawyers countered that the lower court correctly ruled that “federal legislators generally lack standing to sue to enforce the asserted institutional interests of Congress.”