Appeals court rejects Trump effort to throw out emoluments case

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled against President Trump, refusing to throw out a lawsuit alleging that he’s violated the Constitution’s emoluments clauses.

The decision from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals keeps the case alive, rejecting the president’s efforts to preserve immunity from the suit, which was filed by the attorneys general from Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

The court did not rule on the merits of the case against Trump.

The majority in the 9-6 decision dismissed his lawyers’ argument that violations of the constitutional provisions are not grounds for a lawsuit.

“Such restraints are positive law, and of course the President must comply with the law,” the majority wrote in the opinion. “The duty to do so, however, is not a   uniquely official executive duty of the President, for in the United States, every person — even the President — has a duty to obey the law. The duty to obey these particular laws — the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses — flows from the President’s status as head of the Executive Branch, but this duty to obey neither constitutes an official executive prerogative nor impedes any official executive function.”

The decision revives the dormant lawsuit against the president.

Trump’s attorney vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court.

“We disagree with the decision of the Fourth Circuit,” Jay Sekulow, the president’s private counsel, said in a statement. “This case is another example of Presidential harassment. We will be seeking review at the Supreme Court.”

The decision comes five months after the case was argued before the circuit court in December.

The full court decided to rehear the case after a three-judge panel sided with the president last year.The D.C. and Maryland attorneys general filed the lawsuit in 2017 accusing Trump of violating the Constitution’s Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses, which were designed to prevent the president and other government officials from receiving money or gifts from other governments in order to curry favor.

Their lawsuit alleged that the president’s vast private business holdings, specifically his hotel in D.C., violated the clauses and put him in “compromising financial entanglements with foreign and domestic governments.”

“President Trump’s continued ownership interest in a global business empire, which renders him deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors, violates the Constitution and calls into question the rule of law and the integrity of the country’s political system,” they wrote in the lawsuit.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh applauded the decision in a brief phone interview with The Hill on Thursday.

“The rationale is basically founded on the principle that the president of the United States, like every other citizen, is subject to the Constitution and the laws of the U.S.,” Frosh said. “He can’t just because he’s president say, ‘I’m not going to be subject to discovery, I’m not going to be subject to litigation and I don’t have to follow the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution.’ “

He added that he’s looking forward to gathering evidence in the case once it’s returned to the district court, but predicts that Trump will try to fight the decision at the Supreme Court.

The Department of Justice and the president’s personal lawyers have argued in various lawsuits that the Trump hotels and other businesses do not violate the emoluments clauses because they are normal business dealings. In this case, they have also argued that the attorneys general lack standing and that the president is immune to such lawsuits.

In the decision on Thursday, the majority said that the Trump’s legal team had been seeking “extraordinary” consideration from the court.

“We recognize that the President is no ordinary petitioner, and we accord him great deference as the head of the Executive branch,” the opinion reads. “But Congress and the Supreme Court have severely limited our ability to grant the extraordinary relief the President seeks.”

D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine (D) said on a call with reporters that he was pleased by the decision and that he wants to move forward with the subpoenas that have been issued in the case.

“Should the president and his lawyers seek an intervention at the Supreme Court we will be prepared to present our legal arguments there as well,” he added.

Updated at 1:46 p.m.

Tags Court rulings Donald Trump Emoluments Clause Jay Sekulow Maryland
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video