Sujit Choudhry Shares Just What The Emoluments Clause Actually Is

Sujit Choudhry of the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, Center for Global Constitutionalism, is one of their guest researchers who specialize in questions about constitutions. He has an extensive background as a constitutional law professor and has been operating the Center for Constitutional Transitions for the past six years.

He recently wrote about something that has been in the news lately but that most people are confused by, the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. Up until Donald Trump, Sujit Choudhry wrote that barely anybody paid much attention to this clause, source ( However, U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte changed all of that in July 2018. In a case before him, he said that the people accusing President Trump of violating this clause in the Constitution could proceed with their lawsuit against him.

There are actually two Emoluments Clauses, one of which is domestic and the other one being foreign. Basically, the President of the United States shouldn’t accept things such as presents, offices, or titles from any foreign state, view ( They also shouldn’t receive any emoluments from anybody in the United States, either. The Domestic Emoluments Clause specifically mentions the President while the foreign one says, “Person holding any Office” which by definition would include the presidency, according to

Sujit Choudhry says that a major part of the legal argument is just what an “emolument” is. Trump’s side has argued it just refers to compensation for services besides the salary he collects. His opponents argue that it actually means anything of value whether that’s profits or other gains.

Judge Messitte wrote a long opinion in which he said that Trump’s opponents are right. This means that if Donald Trump is making money off foreign dignitaries staying at his Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. he’s breaking this clause of the Constitution, check He went all the way back to when the Constitution was written seeking out the exact definition of the word “emoluments”.

Sujit Choudhry says one of the consequences of this is that if it does go forward than Donald Trump is going to have to reveal his tax returns as part of Discovery. He called it a very interesting legal case to follow.


Follow Sujit Choudhry on his ( for more information.


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