On Wednesday, nearly 200 Democratic members of Congress filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump in federal court.
They are accusing Trump of violating the United States Constitution, specifically the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits United States officials from accepting payments and other gifts from foreign powers. Lawmakers said that, due to his refusal to fully divest himself from his private businesses, Trump had accepted money from foreign governments through the Trump Organization without congressional approval.
"The president’s failure to tell us about these emoluments, to disclose the payments and benefits that he is receiving, mean that we cannot do our job," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) explained to Reuters. "We cannot consent to what we don’t know."
The Washington Post broke the news on Wednesday, reporting that 196 lawmakers in total signed onto the lawsuit, believed to be the most ever to sue an American president. Blumenthal headed the filing of the complaint in federal court and Rep. John Conyers (D-Michigan) led the Democratic legal push in the House.
"Donald Trump has conflicts of interest in at least 25 countries," Conyers told Reuters, "and it appears he’s using his presidency to maximize his profits."
No Republicans have joined the lawsuit yet, but Blumenthal made it clear that they would be welcome to join forces with their peers.
This filing comes shortly after the attorney generals of Maryland and Washington, D.C. hit the president with their own lawsuit, and a few months after a watchdog group filed their own complaint — both citing Trump's potential violation of the Emoluments Clause as well.
The term "emoluments" has no legally upheld definition yet, so unpacking its meaning will be a necessary part of these lawsuits. Whatever the courts decide will have long-standing constitutional implications.
As with his tax returns, Trump probably thought his business conflicts would all blow over eventually, but that's the problem with being an unprecedented president: People notice that things are different, and they notice when those different things are wrong. Thankfully, it appears the U.S. is still a nation built to do something about it.