In a blow to President Trump, a federal judge says a lawsuit that alleges Trump’s business interests violate the Constitution can proceed.
Federal District Judge Peter Messitte denied the Department of Justice’s request to dismiss a case brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia. The Emoluments Clause bars any president from personally profiting from his dealings with foreign governments — or even U.S. state governments.
It’s the first ruling in federal court to define “emolument,” which goes undefined in the U.S. Constitution’s two emoluments clauses.
Messitte rejected the “cramped interpretation” of the term offered by the Justice Department. He wrote that the term applies to “any profit, gain or advantage” of value that Trump has gotten from foreign, the federal or domestic governments.
“We continue to maintain that this case should be dismissed, a position that was shared by a New York court in a related case. The Justice Department is reviewing the order and determining next steps to continue vigorously defending the President,” said Andy Reuss, a spokesman for the Justice Department.
It’s the second victory for Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine, who were granted legal standing to sue Trump in March. They allege their jurisdictions are economically and financially harmed as political and diplomatic officials shift their business to Trump’s downtown Washington, D.C. hotel from nearby convention centers owned by those governments.
After opening shortly before the 2016 election, the Trump International Hotel has quickly became a favorite gathering place for President Trump’s supporters, who frequently hold fundraisers and conferences there. Foreign governments have also frequently held events and put dignitaries up in the hotel.
“The fact is, Trump is taking money from foreign governments,” Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh told reporters after a hearing in January. “He’s taking money from the United States that’s he’s not entitled to, and he’s also receiving payments from states — all that violate his oath of office.”