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

Health

Voting

In The News

Mississippi Supreme Court Overturns Successful Ballot Initiative
In The States
Mississippi Supreme Court Overturns Successful Ballot Initiative
May 16, 2021
by Dan McCue

JACKSON, Miss. - The Mississippi Supreme Court on Friday overturned a voter-approved ballot initiative to legalize medical marijuana, holding that the election law governing ballot referendums is out of date. The decision, which could halt other citizen-led efforts to amend the state constitution, struck down a... Read More

Ex-University of Pittsburgh Chancellor to Chair Pennsylvania Redistricting Commission
In The States
Ex-University of Pittsburgh Chancellor to Chair Pennsylvania Redistricting Commission
May 16, 2021
by Dan McCue

HARRISBURG — Mark Nordenberg, a former University of Pittsburgh chancellor, will chair the committee in charge of drawing Pennsylvania’s legislative districts, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court announced this week. The appointment means Nordenberg, a former dean of Pitt’s law school, will hold the potentially tie-breaking vote on... Read More

House GOP Elects Trump Defender Stefanik to No. 3 Post
Congress
House GOP Elects Trump Defender Stefanik to No. 3 Post
May 14, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - Republican House members handily elected Rep. Elise Stefanik, of New York, to the number three post in their conference leadership Friday, hoping her elevation will end an intra-party feud between allies of former President Donald Trump and his GOP detractors. With little suspense, Stefanik... Read More

Employee Input Critical for Digital Workplace Success
Employment
Employee Input Critical for Digital Workplace Success
May 14, 2021
by Victoria Turner

The transition to remote work this past year happened a lot more quickly than many expected, which suggests organizations were “already working in a digital environment, we just had not realized it,” said Tatyana Mamut, senior vice president of new products at Pendo yesterday. Companies have... Read More

Is Income-Driven Repayment Contributing to Federal Student Loan Payment Problems?
Think Tanks
Is Income-Driven Repayment Contributing to Federal Student Loan Payment Problems?
May 14, 2021
by Kate Michael

WASHINGTON — Student loan forgiveness has been a topic of conversation as the Biden administration continues to consider proposals for alleviating student loan debt, but in the absence of any news on that front, borrowers are starting to get worried as federal student loan repayment is... Read More

China Irked By US Push for Taiwan Presence at World Health Assembly
Geopolitics
China Irked By US Push for Taiwan Presence at World Health Assembly
May 14, 2021
by Daniel Mollenkamp

Over the last two weeks, China and the U.S. have made dueling comments about whether Taiwan should be admitted to this year's World Health Assembly, the meeting where priorities and policies of the World Health Organization are set, which will be held later this month. U.S.... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top