Man walks past Trump International Hotel, January 2017.
Credit: Joshua Alvarez

Unless you were paying very close attention, you may not have seen that Trump’s legal difficulties worsened considerably while the eyes of the nation were on his embattled Supreme Court nominee.

For the longest time Donald Trump has been flagrantly flouting the Constitutional proscription on taking gifts from foreign governments in exchange for services rendered.  He knew that maintaining direct control of his business empire while serving as President would subject him to potential impeachment proceedings, which is why he promised to put all of his holdings into a blind trust managed by his family.  He, of course, did not do that and instead brought his daughter and son-in-law into the highest levels of the government. He simply made the bet that Democrats and the law itself would never be able to hold him accountable for it.

The biggest challenge in bringing a suit over emoluments (outside of impeachment which is a political function) is that of “standing.”  Is there any entity that can prove it is sufficiently directly harmed by Trump’s behavior to bring a civil suit?  That question has been open for the better part of two years now.

Yesterday, that obstacle was blown to bits: 

A federal judge has ruled that 200 Democratic members of Congress have legal standing to sue President Donald Trump for allegedly violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution by doing business with foreign governments while in office.

The emoluments clause bars presidents from accepting gifts from foreign and domestic interests without consent from Congress.

The case argues that the president has received foreign government favors, such as Chinese government trademarks for his companies, payments for hotel rooms and event-space rentals by representatives of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and proceeds from Chinese or Emirati-linked government purchases of office space in Trump Tower.

The President of course is facing extraordinary pressures on the Kavanaugh front and the Mueller front.  If and when Democrats retake the House, his legal problems will multiply exponentially.  But Trump’s concerns have always focused on his business first and foremost and if he is held to account over the emoluments issue in civil court, that more than anything else may be the thing that impoverishes him and his entire corrupt family after this nauseating roller coaster ride is over.

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.