WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is asking a judge to dismiss a lawsuit that argues that Hillary Rodham Clinton cannot legally serve as secretary of state.
The suit filed by conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch is based on an obscure section of the Constitution called the emoluments clause. It says no member of Congress can be appointed to a government post if the pay was increased during the lawmaker's current term.
Clinton was a senator when the secretary of state's salary was raised to $191,300. Congress lowered the salary back to $186,600 so she could take the post.
The department says that remedy has been used so several other members of Congress from both parties could serve in the Cabinet. The department says the lawsuit, which calls for Clinton's removal from office, has no merit.
Judicial Watch, which has pursued several suits against Clinton and other officials over the years, filed the suit on behalf of State Department employee David Rodearmel. It says Rodearmel would violate the oath he took as a foreign service officer in 1991 to "support and defend" and "bear true faith and allegiance" to the Constitution by working for Clinton.
The Justice Department says Rodearmel does not have the legal right to sue because he has not been personally harmed by Clinton taking the position.