Bloomberg Law
Jan. 25, 2021, 8:09 PM

Supreme Court Orders Dismissal of Suits Over Trump Finances (2)

Greg Stohr
Greg Stohr
Bloomberg News

The U.S. Supreme Court ordered the formal dismissal of two lawsuits that accused Donald Trump of unconstitutionally profiting from his presidency.

The cases no longer had any practical consequences after Trump’s term in office ended Jan. 20, and both sides agreed the disputes had become legally moot.

Those suing Trump included hotels, restaurants and the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia. They said Trump as president benefited from a stream of foreign and state government officials who patronized his properties, including the Trump International Hotel in Washington, a few blocks from the White House.

The lawsuits accused Trump of violating the Constitution’s two emoluments clauses. One clause bars a president from accepting benefits from foreign governments without congressional consent, while the other bars receipt of any benefit other than a salary from the U.S. government or a state.

“This important litigation made the American people aware for four years of the pervasive corruption that came from a president maintaining a global business and taking benefits and payments from foreign and domestic governments,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group involved in one of the suits.

QuickTake archive: Trump’s Business Ties and the Problem With Emoluments

A key question was who, if anyone, could sue to enforce the emoluments clauses. As part of its order Monday, the Supreme Court set aside federal appeals court rulings that had let the suits proceed, taking a step urged by Trump’s Justice Department. The Supreme Court gave no explanation, and no justice publicly dissented.

Had the suits gone forward while Trump was president, the plaintiffs might have been able to force him to turn over some of his business records.

District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said their lawsuit had secured an important trial court decision interpreting the emoluments clauses as barring federal officials from accepting almost anything of value from foreign or domestic governments.

“This decision will serve as precedent that will help stop anyone else from using the presidency or other federal office for personal financial gain the way that President Trump has over the past four years,” Racine and Frosh said in a joint statement.

The cases are Trump v. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, 20-330, and Trump v. District of Columbia, 20-331.

(Updates with reaction from D.C. and Maryland attorneys general starting in eighth paragraph.)

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Greg Stohr in Washington at

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Jon Morgan at

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