Fourth Circuit Dismisses Emoluments Lawsuit Over Trump’s D.C. Hotel

July 10, 2019 by Dan McCue
The lobby bar at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed a legal victory to President Trump Wednesday, dismissing a lawsuit claiming he’s been illegally profiting from foreign and state government officials who stay at his luxury hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Word just out that I won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt,” Trump tweeted when the ruling by the three-judge panel was announced.

“Unanimous decision in my favor … on the ridiculous Emolument Case,” the president said. “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!).”

Since taking office, the president has stepped back from day-to-day management of the hotel, but he continues to maintain an ownership interest.

The emoluments clause at issue in the case, which was filed in 2017, was designed to prevent undue influence on government officials, but has never been applied in court to a sitting president.

In its ruling, the 4th Circuit panel said the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia lacked legal standing to bring the lawsuit alleging the president violates the Constitution every time the Trump International Hotel accepts payment from foreign officials.

“The District and Maryland’s interest in enforcing the Emoluments Clause 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,” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Paul Niemeyer.

The decision, one which Niemeyer was joined by U.S. Circuit Judges Dennis Shedd and A. Marvin Quattlebaum, also voided scores of subpoenas issued to Trump business entities and government agencies for financial records tied to the downtown hotel.

All three judges on the panel were nominated by Republican presidents: Niemeyer, by George H.W. Bush; Shedd, by George W. Bush, and Quattlebaum, by Trump.

In their lawsuit, the attorneys general attempted to argue that Trump’s hotel diverts business from hotels and high-end resorts within their jurisdictions.

But the panel said the notoriety of the president could cut two ways.

“There is a distinct possibility … that certain government officials might avoid patronizing the Hotel because of the President’s association with it,” Niemeyer wrote, opining that this was a possibility the attorneys general completely ignored in their filings.

“Even if government officials were patronizing the Hotel to curry the President’s favor, there is no reason to conclude that they would cease doing so were the President enjoined from receiving income from the Hotel,” Niemeyer said. “After all, the Hotel would still be publicly associated with the President, would still bear his name, and would still financially benefit members of his family.”

Trump’s attorney, Jay Sekulow was no more reserved in his response to the ruling than his client.

When asked to comment by reporters, Sekulow said the lawsuit was just one in a long line of efforts to harass the president and he called Wednesday’s dismissal, “a complete victory.”

Meanwhile Kellu Laco, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department said it was pleased “the Fourth Circuit unanimously decided to dismiss this extraordinarily flawed case.”

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, both Democrats, said they are considering appealing for a rehearing by a full panel of the 4th Circuit.

“Although the court described a litany of ways in which this case is unique, it 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,” the attorneys general said in a joint statement.

A federal appeals court in Washington is considering a separate emoluments lawsuit brought by Congressional Democrats, who this week began issuing subpoenas for financial records from the president’s private entities.

The 37 subpoenas, issued “to a number of Trump business enterprises, including the Trump Organization, [seek] information about foreign government payments accepted by six Trump properties, as well as trademarks granted to Trump businesses by foreign governments,” according to a statement from Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Representative Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., on behalf of the more than 200 Democrats who signed on to the lawsuit.

Democrats sued President Trump last summer, arguing that under the foreign emoluments clause in the Constitution, Congress must consent to all foreign payments his businesses earn, including the Trump International Hotel.

On Monday, the Justice Department petitioned the D.C. appeals court for a stay of the subpoenas issued in that case. 

In The News

Wisconsin's Reputation for Swinging Expected to Extend to 2020 2020 Elections
Wisconsin's Reputation for Swinging Expected to Extend to 2020
January 17, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Even among battleground states, Wisconsin is considered special; a study in political contrasts if ever there was one. It went for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012, flipped to Donald Trump in 2016 by the narrowest of margins -- just 0.77% -- then turned... Read More

High Court to Decide If 'Faithless Electors' Can Defy Popular Vote Supreme Court
High Court to Decide If 'Faithless Electors' Can Defy Popular Vote
January 17, 2020
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court on Friday agreed to decide an issue that could have a profound effect on the outcome of the 2020 election -- whether members of the Electoral College can defy their state's choice for president and cast a vote for someone else.... Read More

In Reversal, Counties and States Help Inmates Keep Medicaid Medicaid
In Reversal, Counties and States Help Inmates Keep Medicaid

WASHINGTON — More local and state officials are working to ensure that low-income residents stay on Medicaid when they go to jail. Federal law bars Medicaid recipients from accessing their full federal health benefits while incarcerated. But officials from both parties have pushed for two key... Read More

Body Cameras May Not Be the Easy Answer Everyone Was Looking For In The News
Body Cameras May Not Be the Easy Answer Everyone Was Looking For

WASHINGTON — When a Maine state senator introduced a bill last year to require all police officers to wear body cameras, she expected some discussion. But the response that Democratic state Sen. Susan Deschambault got was stronger than she anticipated. Several groups, including police chiefs and... Read More

Some States Face Political Changes As Newcomers Arrive In The States
Some States Face Political Changes As Newcomers Arrive

WASHINGTON — Texas, Arizona and parts of the South are seeing the nation’s largest population bumps — and the people moving there from more liberal states may be feeding political change in those red-state conservative bastions. As people from California and New York discover the South... Read More

In Texas, Buying Lottery Tickets Just Got More Convenient. Maybe Too Convenient Texas
In Texas, Buying Lottery Tickets Just Got More Convenient. Maybe Too Convenient

AUSTIN, Texas — Charlie Thomas, a home health care provider who also scrubs floors in the evening, says he buys lottery tickets “every time I get a paycheck.” Thomas, 55, has been playing the Texas Lottery for two decades. His “fortune hunting” takes a $30 bite... Read More

Straight From The Well
scroll top