That Other Case

propublica.org

So much else is going on it’s easy to overlook the steady progress of a court case that goes directly after President Trump and his company.

This week a federal judge let it go forward. The lawsuit, brought by Maryland and Washington D.C. officials, alleges Trump is violating the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign governments. It claims Trump’s status as president gives him an unfair competitive advantage, allowing him to exert influence on spending for meetings, conventions and other events at his properties.

By refusing to divest himself of his sprawling real estate business Trump is open to legal exposure under the Constitution for profits gained from foreign governments at his hotels, golf courses, etc.

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” — Article I of the Constitution.

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte, who had earlier ruled the plaintiffs have standing to sue Trump, ruled on Wednesday that a legal definition of “emolument” means “any ‘profit,’ ‘gain,’ or ‘advantage,’” and stated that this definition could include foreign government payments to Trump properties. It is the first time a federal judge defined these constitutional provisions.

“Sole or substantial ownership of a business that receives hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars a year in revenue from one of its hotel properties where foreign and domestic governments are known to stay (often with the express purpose of cultivating the President’s good graces) most definitely raises the potential for undue influence, and would be well within the contemplation of the Clauses.” — Judge Messitte.

The ruling, likely to end up in the Supreme Court for final resolution, opens the way for others who can prove standing to challenge profits from other Trump businesses.