Federal Judge Hears Arguments In Emoluments Clause Lawsuit Against Trump

Oct 18, 2017
Originally published on October 18, 2017 5:48 pm
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A federal district judge says he intends to rule in 30 to 60 days on whether to allow a lawsuit that alleges President Trump is violating the Constitution. And at a preliminary hearing in Manhattan today, there was a hint of what's at stake. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: If there's one thing Trump's critics want from him and he refuses to give up, it's his tax returns. The returns didn't come up during today's hearing, the first step in a process that could loosen Trump's grip on them. But the next step in the process could make them surface. Trump is being sued by four plaintiffs who say he's violating the anti-corruption emoluments clauses of the Constitution. And if Judge George Daniels says the plaintiffs have legal standing to proceed, then they can seek internal financial documents, including those tax returns. Plaintiffs lawyer Joseph Sellers spoke with reporters outside the courthouse.

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JOSEPH SELLERS: We will be looking for detailed financial records, foreign and domestic transaction in the president's business. If the tax returns turn out to be relevant, we may seek them.

OVERBY: The lawsuit comes from three plaintiffs in the hotel and restaurant industry and one watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. The Constitution's clauses banning emoluments - that is gifts and other favors - are meant to keep federal officials from getting into conflicts of interest while in office. Plaintiffs lawyer Deepak Gupta told Judge Daniels that Trump's Washington hotel is an emoluments magnet. Its international business has been burgeoning according to news reports.

Justice Department lawyer Brett Schumate said the plaintiffs haven't shown they've been injured by any of this, so they wouldn't have legal standing. At the end of the hearing, Schumate opened a possible argument that presidents aren't even covered by the Foreign Emoluments Clause. Peter Overby, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.