Supreme Court Strikes Emoluments Clause Cases Against Trump

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

On Monday, the Supreme Court refused to take up two cases involving claims that President Donald Trump illegally profited off of his presidency by violating the Emoluments Clause. The Court directed two federal appeals courts to dismiss the case as moot. Both sides had agreed the issue became moot after Trump’s term ended on January 20, 2021.


The Supreme Court declined to take up Trump v. CREW and Trump v. District of Columbia, remanding the cases to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, respectively. The Court instructed the appeals courts to “dismiss the case as moot,” citing United States v. Munsingwear (1950), in which the Supreme Court upheld a dismissal for mootness after both parties claimed the matter was moot.

Both cases could potentially have carved a path to access Trump’s financial records if the cases had gone through during his presidency, Axios reported.

Last February, a federal appeals court dismissed an Emoluments Clause case brought by 215 congressional Democrats, holding that the Democrats lacked standing.

Unlike other presidents, Trump did not use a blind trust to maintain his business assets while in office, but instead, retained an interest in his business and allowed those businesses to take money from foreign and domestic governments, sometimes hosting foreign and domestic officials at the Trump International Hotel. The Emoluments Clause states that “no person holding any office … shall, without consent of Congress” accept gifts or other benefits from foreign governments.


The Supreme Court’s ruling leaves open questions about emoluments for future presidents who retain business interests while in office. However, it was wise for the Court not to take up such a divisive issue at the present time, considering the fact that the Senate will try former President Donald Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors even after his term in office.

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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