Federal Appeals Court Revives Emoluments Case Against Trump

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AFP/Nicholas Kamm

A U.S. federal appeals court ruled Friday that a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of violating the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause can move forward.

The lawsuit, filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), was dismissed for lack of standing by a lower-level judge in December 2017. The plaintiffs, comprised of the president’s rivals in the hospitality industry, have alleged that the president’s profiting off his “foreign and domestic government clientele” have hurt their businesses.

“The Plaintiff establishments cater to foreign and domestic government clientele, and allege that they are direct competitors of hospitality properties owned by the President in Washington D.C. and New York City. The complaint alleges that President Trump, operating through corporations, limited‐liability companies, limited partnerships, and other business structures, is effectively the sole owner of restaurants, hotels, and event spaces, which are patronized by foreign and domestic government clientele,” reads the appellate court’s explanation of the case.

“The President has announced that, since assuming office, he has turned over day‐to‐day management of his business empire to his children and established a trust to hold his business assets. However, he maintains sole ownership, receives business updates at least quarterly, and has the ability to obtain distributions from the trust at any time,” it added.

Noah Bookbinder, CREW’s executive director, lauded the development and called on the president to “end his violations” of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses.

“We thank and applaud the judges of the Second Circuit for their decision today. We never wanted to be in a position where it would be necessary to go to court to compel the President of the United States to follow the Constitution,” Bookbinder told Law&Crime. “However, President Trump left us no choice, and we will proudly fight as long as needed to ensure Americans are represented by an ethical government under the rule of law.”

“If President Trump would like to avoid the case going further and curtail the serious harms caused by his unconstitutional conduct, now would be a good time to divest from his businesses and end his violations of the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution,” he added.

CREW’s lawsuit is one of several accusing President Trump of breaching the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars lawmakers from personally benefiting from foreign governments without the approval of the U.S. Congress

In August, a federal appeals court tossed an emoluments lawsuit brought by Maryland’s attorneys general. During a rally in Pennsylvania last month, the president criticized the lawsuits, telling supporters: “I got sued on a thing called emoluments. Emoluments. You ever hear of the word? Nobody ever heard of it before. And what it is is presidential harassment, because it is costing me a fortune.”

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