A federal court denied Donald Trump’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by attorneys general from Washington, DC and Maryland on Wednesday, rejecting the president’s assertion that the case was politically motivated.
In denying the motion, the judge allowed the District of Columbia and Maryland to press ahead with their suit, in which they allege that Trump is in violation of the Emoluments Clause, a passage in the Constitution that prohibits any US president from receiving gifts or items of monetary value “from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
Maryland and D.C. maintain that when foreign officials frequent Trump’s Washington hotel, located a short stroll from White House, they are deprived of business they might otherwise have had.
The plaintiffs cited as an example a decision by the Embassy of Kuwait to switch a major event from Washington’s Four Seasons Hotel to Trump’s hotel after the election.
Their lawsuit alleges that the federal government erred in allowing Trump to maintain his lease for the D.C. hotel — which he operates but which is federal property — despite an explicit provision banning elected officials.
“Plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that the President is violating the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clause of the Constitution by reason of his involvement with and receipt of benefits from the Trump International Hotel and its appurtenances in Washington, D.C. as well as the operations of the Trump Organization with respect to the same,” the judge wrote.
The court found that we have stated a claim under both Emoluments Clauses—Foreign and Domestic—and rejected Trump's arguments that DC & Maryland lack standing, that their injuries fall outside the Clauses' zone of interests, and that this is a political question. pic.twitter.com/LIRUmVYIXp
— Jon Taylor (@jontaylor1) March 28, 2018
The lawsuit alleged that Trump’s ownership of a Washington hotel not only steals business from competing venues in the region, but costs local governments vital tax revenue.
Last week, attorneys general for the District of Columbia and Maryland expanded their lawsuit to include Trump in his personal capacity as a businessman and not just in his role as president. To that end, they sent an official summons to Trump at his home on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — the White House.
Some legal experts agree that the Maryland and D.C. lawsuit has a better chance of moving forward, especially now that it addresses Trump as a businessman, compared to previous Emoluments Clause cases that were ultimately dismissed.
Before taking office, Trump failed to fully divest himself from his business empire, allowing him to continue to profit from his businesses and even enhance his earnings while president. According to ProPublica, lawyers for Trump confirmed that the president can pull funds from his blind trust — managed by his two adult sons, who have been entrusted with the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization — whenever he chooses, without disclosing it to the public.