I read in the news that recently inaugurated US President Donald Trump has been sued for "ethics violation" by a private entity for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

I thought that the President was immune from lawsuits by private citizens?


From Clinton v. Jones 520 U.S. 681 (1997):

Deferral of this litigation until petitioner's Presidency ends is not constitutionally required.


The separation-of-powers doctrine does not require federal courts to stay all private actions against the President until he leaves office.


Nixon v Fitzgerald provides no support for an immunity for unofficial conduct.

Regarding official acts, the President is immune. Nixon v. Fitzgerald 457 U.S. 731 (1982):

Petitioner, as a former President of the United States, is entitled to absolute immunity from damages liability predicated on his official acts.


The President's absolute immunity extends to all acts within the "outer perimeter" of his duties of office.

  • 3
    I think the phrase "from damages liability" might be relevant here. Whether or not this relates to official acts, the CREW suit isn't seeking damages; they're asking for a ruling that the conduct in question violates the Emoluments Clause and an injunction ordering the President to stop doing it. (They did ask for attorney's fees as well, but that's not damages either.) Jan 23 '17 at 21:00
  • 3
    @NateEldredge The clause you identify is relevant. Courts may order an official in an official capacity to comply with an injunction.
    – ohwilleke
    Jan 24 '17 at 9:47

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