After flipping through the pages of A Matter of interpretation, a name caught my eye: Laurence H. Tribe. This name was briefly mentioned in class last week regarding his involvement in efforts to sue President Trump for not properly divesting himself from the Trump organization. In all honesty, I have never heard of this man before, but after spending some time research I now understand the significance of his legal career, and him joining the legal fight against President Trump.
I will spare you having to read a full-fledged biography on Tribe, but if you are curious, I found a good one here. The more notable aspects of Tribe’s life include his current tenure as a professor of constitutional law at Harvard Law School. In addition to co-founding the American Constitution Society and arguing before the Supreme Court over thirty times.
The American Constitution Society sits as a progressive legal organization with goals of promoting individual rights, equality, social justice and democracy. Most notably, the ACS aided Al Gore in Bush v. Gore in 2001.
Now, along with other prominent attorneys (including former White House ethics lawyer) Tribe has filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump for violating the United States Constitution. These attorneys claim that Trump has not properly divested his ownership of the Trump Organization which would the Emoluments Clause.
In an interview with the Harvard Crimson, Tribe described the basis for their suit:
“The Emoluments Clause has nothing to do with how busy you are managing, it’s about whether you own something,” Tribe said. “As long as he maintains ownership of this vast business empire that can be benefited financially in dozens and hundreds of ways by many countries that want to gain his favor, he hasn’t avoided the Emoluments Clause.” (Halper 2)
The lawsuit, which was filed in a federal court on January 23rd cites that alleges that transactions between foreign governments and Trump’s business holdings, including hotel room purchases and leases in Trump’s towers, violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. The clause prevents individuals holding offices of “Profit or Trust” from accepting ‘any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.’” (Halper 1).
Tribe and his team are effectively taking a page from Antonin Scalia’s practice of textualism. While the case has not been heard in a court yet, it is expected that they will rely on the language of the document to argue for their case. It seems almost poetic that a progressive lawyer and team of lawyers are using the practice set by a hero of the political right to argue their case.
Looking deeper in “A Matter of Interpretation” Tribe comments on Scalia’s work. Although he does take some issue with him on “cherry-picking” at times, Tribe and Scalia’s opinion do overlap more than once.
Although nobody know what the future holds for this lawsuit, or any other that might be filed against the President. However, Tribe has opened the doors to fight back against President Trump on the legal avenue, rather than a political one.
*Other legal groups, such as the ACLU are in the process of filing similar lawsuits regarding how Trump has divested himself.