Appeals Court Orders Dismissal Of Emoluments Lawsuit Against Trump

Jul 10, 2019
Originally published on July 10, 2019 11:54 am

Updated at 1:15 p.m. ET

A constitutional challenge to President Trump's continued ownership of his businesses has been ordered dismissed by a federal appeals court.

The case was brought by the attorneys general of Washington, D.C., and Maryland, arguing that Trump had violated the domestic and foreign emoluments clauses of the U.S. Constitution by accepting money from state and foreign governments via his Washington hotel and business empire.

A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit ruled unanimously that the attorneys general did not have the standing to bring the lawsuit and instructed a lower court to dismiss the lawsuit.

Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote in the opinion: "The District and Maryland's interest in enforcing the Emoluments Clauses is so attenuated and abstract that their prosecution of this case readily provokes the question of whether this action against the President is an appropriate use of the courts, which were created to resolve real cases and controversies between the parties."

The president had filed motions to dismiss the case on the grounds that the District and Maryland lacked standing and argued that he has not received emoluments as prohibited by the Constitution.

All three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican presidents.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington opened just months before Trump took office. The lawsuit alleged that the president profits from foreign and state governments who stay there. D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine has called the emoluments clauses "our nation's original anti-corruption laws."

The lawsuit argues that the hotel, with its association with the president, takes business from other establishments, including Washington's nearby convention center, which is owned by the district's government.

This case is not the only emoluments challenge against President Trump. Another federal court is still considering a lawsuit brought by Democratic members of Congress.

Trump tweeted on Wednesday morning about the court's decision, writing: "Word just out that I won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt. Unanimous decision in my favor from The United States Court of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit on the ridiculous Emoluments Case. I don't make money, but lose a fortune for the honor of serving and doing a great job as your President (including accepting Zero salary!)."

Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, released a statement that cheered the ruling. "Today's pair of decisions by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is a complete victory," he told Reuters. "This latest effort at presidential harassment has been dismissed with prejudice."

Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh issued a joint statement that said the panel of judges "got it wrong," and that they will continue to pursue their legal options.

They said the court "failed to acknowledge the most extraordinary circumstance of all: President Trump is brazenly profiting from the Office of the President in ways that no other President in history ever imagined and that the founders expressly sought — in the Constitution — to prohibit," Frosh and Racine wrote.

The pair said they would continue their legal efforts to "hold President Trump accountable" for what they viewed as his violation of the emoluments clauses.

The Department of Justice said it was pleased that the court had ruled to dismiss the case, which it called "extraordinarily flawed."

"The court correctly determined that the plaintiffs improperly asked the courts to exceed their constitutional role by reviewing the President's compliance with the Emoluments Clauses," Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco said in a statement.

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