President Donald Trump waves to guests as he departs the White House on Thursday. A lawsuit against the president that accused him of violating the Constitution was dismissed by a federal judge. Photo by Mike Theiler/UPI | License Photo
Dec. 22 (UPI) -- A federal judge threw out two lawsuits against President Donald Trump on Thursday that accused him of using his office to enrich his businesses.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed suit against Trump on behalf of a group of hospitality workers in January that accused the president of violating the Constitution's Foreign Emoluments Clause, which prohibits the president from accepting foreign gifts without congressional approval. And because Trump owns hotels where foreign dignitaries sometimes stay, CREW claimed the president was violating the clause.
But U.S. District Judge George Daniels, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, said the accusation is a political one that should be handled by Congress, not a courtroom.
"As the only political branch with the power to consent to violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause, Congress is the appropriate body to determine whether, and to what extent, Defendant's conduct unlawfully infringes on that power," Daniels wrote. "If Congress determines that an infringement has occurred, it is up to Congress to decide whether to challenge or acquiesce to Defendant's conduct. As such, this case presents a non-justiciable political question."
Daniels also said that even if foreign officials were staying at Trump properties, the emoluments clause is not violated unless Trump himself told them to do so, adding that is "is only natural that interest in his properties has generally increased since he became president.
"It is wholly speculative whether the Hospitality Plaintiffs' loss of business is fairly traceable to Defendant's 'incentives' or instead results from government officials' independent desire to patronize Defendant's businesses," Daniels wrote. "Even before Defendant took office, he had amassed wealth and fame and was competing against the Hospitality Plaintiffs in the restaurant and hotel business."
In a statement, CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder insisted that the president is in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and said his legal team will consider other options.
"The Constitution's emoluments clauses are core protections against destabilizing foreign and domestic corruption. We never thought we would have to sue the president to enforce them; we hoped that President Trump would take the necessary steps to avoid violating the Constitution before he took office," Bookbinder said.