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Judge dismisses lawsuit accusing Trump of violating Emoluments Clause

A federal judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit accusing the president of violating the Constitution through payments from foreign entities to his businesses. U.S. District Court Judge George B. Daniels in Manhattan deemed the lawsuit from the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and other plaintiffs lacked standing, and the plaintiffs had failed to prove injury.

The plaintiffs have alleged President Trump's "vast, complicated and secret" business interests — like the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., blocks from the White House — have resulted in violations of the Domestic and Foreign Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution, intended to prevent bribery from foreign entities. The plaintiffs argued it was unconstitutional for Mr. Trump's businesses to benefit from foreign representatives staying at his hotels and eating at his restaurants while Mr. Trump is in office. 

But Daniels said the plaintiffs failed to prove injury from the accusations. The judge did not elaborate on whether Mr. Trump was indeed in breach of the Emoluments Clause, saying that was a case for Congress. 

CREW wasn't pleased with the lawsuit's outcome. 

"The Constitution's emoluments clauses are core protections against destabilizing foreign and domestic corruption," CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement. "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. He did not, and we were forced to bring our landmark Emoluments case because the plaintiffs in this case—and the American people—have been directly harmed by the president's violations. While today's ruling is a setback, we will not walk away from this serious and ongoing constitutional violation. The Constitution is explicit on these issues, and the president is clearly in violation. Our legal team is weighing its options and will soon lay out our decisions on how to proceed."

Mr. Trump, who made his fortune in real estate, marketing and entertainment, bucked decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential elections. That has fueled suspicions about his possible conflicts-of-interests as well as concerns about the source of his income, including whether any of it comes from sources abroad.

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