Appeals court dismisses emoluments clause case against Trump

Trump International Hotel Washington DC
A gilded entrance to the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. on Nov. 30, 2017 Copyright NewsBase AP file
Copyright NewsBase AP file
By Allan Smith with NBC News Politics
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A three judge panel said the state attorneys general's "interest in enforcing" the emoluments clause was "so attenuated and abstract."


A federal appeals court on Wednesday dismissed a case brought by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia that argued President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution by accepting profits through foreign and domestic officials who stay at his Washington hotel.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit said the two attorneys general did not have standing to sue Trump and questioned whether they were "appropriate" in their litigation.

"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," Judge Paul Niemeyer wrote in his opinion on behalf of the panel.

Trump celebrated the decision on Twitter soon after.

"Word just out that I won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt," Trump tweeted. "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!)."

The Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House, has become a favorite of Republicans, lobbyists and diplomats. In 2018, it generated revenue of over $40.8 million, up from $40.4 million in 2017, according to the president's annual financial disclosure forms.

The disclosure reports show revenue, not profits, and some of the figures are given in ranges, giving only a partial picture of his finances.

Wednesday's decision came after the judges in March grilled lawyers for the state of Maryland and Washington, D.C. — the two parties which filed the suit.

The three judges on the panel were all nominated by Republican presidents, including one nominated by Trump.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and Washington, D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine did not immediately respond to request for comment from NBC News.

Maryland and Washington, D.C. had some initial wins in the case, including when a federal judge ruled that the two attorneys general had standing to file such a claim because business that was being sent to the hotel adversely affected other businesses in their jurisdictions.

"Today's pair of decisions by the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals is a complete victory," Trump's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement. "The decision states that there was no legal standing to bring this lawsuit in the first place. This latest effort at Presidential harassment has been dismissed with prejudice."

There are two other lawsuits accusing the president of violating the emoluments clause have been filed in other federal courts. The emoluments clause — a little known section of the Constitution — bars public officials from receiving gifts or cash from foreign or state governments without congressional approval.

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