A high-profile House Democrat said that the House Judiciary Committee is looking into whether or not it can impeach President Donald Trump based on alleged constitutional violations related to his various properties.
In a tweet Thursday morning, Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chair and House Judiciary Committee member Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) praised a recent statement from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accusing the president of violating the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. She also said that the Judiciary Committee "is engaged in impeachment investigation to get facts on violations of Emoluments Clause."
.@SpeakerPelosi lays out how Trump is violating the Constitution, w/his lavish properties acting as cesspool of c… https://t.co/312klcxNnM— Rep. Pramila Jayapal (@Rep. Pramila Jayapal) 1567694852.0
Pelosi's statement Wednesday alleges that "President Trump is violating the Constitution by making money off of his lavish, ritzy resort properties, ultimately prioritizing his profits over the interests of the American people." It later goes on to directly accuse Trump of violating the Emoluments Clause "by accepting and encouraging foreign governments to pay to stay at Trump resort properties without Congressional approval."
The statement was issued in response to a recent suggestion from President Trump that the G-7 hold its meeting at his Doral golf resort near Miami and a media dust-up over Vice President Mike Pence's recent stay at Trump's Doonbeg resort in Ireland.
In response to those reports and others described in the statement, Pelosi called Trump's properties "a cesspool of corruption."
Behind allegations of collusion with the Russian government during the 2016 election and allegations of obstruction of justice during the investigation of those collusion allegations, the Emoluments Clause is a less discussed potential instrument in Democrats' impeachment toolbox.
In short, the Constitution says that federal officeholders can't "without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State." Another section says that the president can't take "any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them" in addition to his federal salary during his time in office.
Trump's critics have taken this to mean that it's unconstitutional for his businesses — which are currently being run by his sons — to accept payments from foreign or domestic government officials. Others, however, argue that the Founders' intent wasn't to target presidents' still-operating businesses.
After former special counsel Robert Mueller's stumbling, unimpressive congressional testimony failed to build the kind of impeachment momentum that Trump's opponents hoped for, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) listed possible Emoluments Clause violations as something the panel would be looking into.
Efforts to use the Emoluments Clause against President Trump go back as far as 2017, when the governments of the District of Columbia and Maryland sued the president for "flagrantly violating" it. A federal judge determined in July that the case lacked standing. Days later, a federal judge temporarily blocked congressional Democrats' subpoenas in a different Emoluments Clause case.