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In addition to being really rich, Blumenthal is the lead plaintiff in Blumenthal v. Trump, a lawsuit brought by members of Congress against President Trump in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The lawsuit alleges that Trump is in violation of the Foreign Emoluments Clause because he “has a financial interest in vast business holdings around the world that engage in dealings with foreign governments and receive benefits from those governments.” Because of this financial interest, plaintiffs allege, Trump “has accepted, or necessarily will accept, ‘Emolument[s]’ from ‘foreign State[s]’” within the meaning of the FEC.
The Blumenthal plaintiffs therefore assert a simple legal proposition: If a federal officeholder (a) has a financial interest in a business and (b) that business derives revenue from foreign governments, then the officeholder receives prohibited emoluments within the meaning of the FEC. Thus, for example, because (a) Trump has a financial interest in Trump Tower in New York and (b) Trump Tower has at least two tenants owned by foreign states (a Chinese bank and the UAE’s Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority), Trump “has accepted, or necessarily will accept” prohibited emoluments when those tenants make their lease payments.
Question - Emolument - Issue - FEC - President
This raises an obvious question. If it is that easy to receive an “emolument,” how is it that this issue has never come up before? After all, the FEC doesn’t just apply to the president or a few senior officials. The Office of Legal Counsel views the clause as applying to all federal officers and employees, meaning that millions of individuals are subject to its prohibitions at any one time. See Application of Emoluments Clause to Part-Time Consultant for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 10 Op. O.L.C. 96, 99 (June 3, 1986) (see also this DOD white paper on the subject).
Although not stated in the...
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