Nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress agreed to file a lawsuit Wednesday against President Trump alleging that by retaining interests in a global business empire he has violated constitutional restrictions on taking gifts and benefits from foreign leaders.
The lead senator filing the complaint in federal district court, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), said Tuesday that the lawsuit has already drawn more congressional plaintiffs — 196 — than any legal action previously taken against a president. No Republicans had joined in the lawsuit so far, although they will be invited to do so, Blumenthal said.
An advance copy of the legal complaint reviewed by The Washington Post argues that those in Congress have special standing because the Constitution’s “foreign emoluments clause” requires the president to obtain “the consent of Congress” before accepting any gifts.
The legal effort, led in the House by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), is likely to escalate tensions between the White House and Capitol Hill, where at least five committees are investigating various issues related to the Trump administration.
News of the lawsuit emerged less than 24 hours after attorneys general in the District and Maryland, both Democrats, filed suit alleging that payments to Trump violated the Constitution’s anti-corruption clauses. In another lawsuit filed against Trump by business competitors, the Justice Department recently defended Trump’s actions, arguing that he violated no restrictions by accepting fair-market payments for services.
Legal scholars consulted by the congressional plaintiffs said their complaint is distinctive because of the special standing granted to Congress.