On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear a pair of emoluments lawsuits against former President Donald Trump.
The emoluments clause of the Constitution bars the president from profiting off of the office, and the lawsuits were aimed at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The court ruled that since Trump has left office, the cases are now moot.
The lawsuits were filed by the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) and the attorneys general for Washington, D.C., and Maryland.
The parties involved claimed that Trump violated the Constitution’s emoluments clauses by continuing to operate his businesses while serving as President of the United States.
Prior to Trump’s presidency, the courts had never had to confront this issue. The president having private business interests while serving out his term is unprecedented in modern politics.
A third emolument lawsuit had been introduced in 2017 by more than a hundred Democratic members of Congress, but the Supreme Court dismissed it last year.
That suit alleged that Trump’s businesses allowed him to accept unconstitutional payments from foreign governments through the use of his hotels by diplomats.
The September 2017 lawsuit from D.C. and Maryland read, “President Trump’s continued ownership interest in a global business empire, which renders him deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors, violates the Constitution and calls into question the rule of law and the integrity of the country’s political system.”
It continued, “Whatever the sincerity of the persons involved, foreign and domestic officials are put in the position of considering whether offering benefits to businesses associated with the President is important to maintaining goodwill.”
On Trump’s first day in office, CREW filed its own emoluments suit.
Noah Bookbinder, CREW’s executive director, said in a statement Monday, “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.”
“Only Trump losing the presidency and leaving office ended these corrupt constitutional violations and stopped these groundbreaking lawsuits,” Bookbinder added.
The D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh also defended the lawsuit after the Supreme Court decision on Monday.
Racine and Frosh said in a joint statement, “We are proud that because of our case, a court ruled on the meaning of ‘emoluments’ for the first time in American history, finding that the Constitution prohibits 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,” the pair added.
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