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Court to Lawmakers: No, You Can't Sue Trump

Federal appeals court says congressional Dems have no legal standing in emoluments complaint
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 7, 2020 12:46 PM CST
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President Trump walks to board Air Force One on Friday at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland for a trip to Charlotte, NC.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – Congressional Democrats received some disappointing news this week over their emoluments lawsuit against President Trump. Per Politico, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the complaint filed in 2017 by 200-plus Democratic House and Senate members, accusing the president of illegally profiting from foreign governments who spent money at his Washington hotel and other businesses, has no legal standing. The reason? Individual lawmakers can't sue, with Politico noting that suggests if the House or Senate had acted as a body to bring the suit, it may have had legal legs. Per NBC News, the unsigned, unanimous ruling noted that the 215 lawmakers involved in the complaint don't make up a majority of Congress.

"Our 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 judge's panel, made of one Democratic appointee and two Republican appointees, wrote, adding, "Only an institution can assert an institutional injury." The Wall Street Journal notes Friday's decision overturned a trial judge's ruling that allowed the lawsuit to move forward. Trump calls the ruling "a total win," NBC News reports. It's not clear if the plaintiffs will ask for a full bench review or head to the Supreme Court. Two other emoluments-related lawsuits against Trump are still pending in appeals courts in New York and Virginia. (Read more emoluments stories.)

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