Court re­jects law­suit over Trump busi­ness

Mary­land, D.C. slammed down

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY STEPHEN DINAN

A fed­eral ap­peals court Wed­nes­day ruled in fa­vor of Pres­i­dent Trump’s busi­ness in­ter­ests, toss­ing a law­suit brought by Mary­land and the Dis­trict of Columbia that ar­gued he was vi­o­lat­ing the Con­sti­tu­tion by run­ning his ho­tel em­pire while serv­ing as pres­i­dent.

The 4th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals said Mary­land and the Dis­trict don’t have stand­ing to com­plain about Mr. Trump’s ac­tions.

The three-judge panel also ques­tioned whether judges had a role to play in set­tling the dis­pute at all but ul­ti­mately didn’t reach that mat­ter. In­stead, it ruled on pro­ce­dural grounds.

That does not mean the pres­i­dent is in the clear. An­other judge is al­low­ing a different law­suit to move for­ward.

Mr. Trump touted the rul­ing as a big win.

“Unan­i­mous de­ci­sion in my fa­vor from The United States Court of Ap­peals For The Fourth

Cir­cuit on the ridicu­lous Emol­u­ments Case,” the pres­i­dent tweeted. “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!).”

Mr. Trump has kept own­er­ship of his busi­ness em­pire, though he has turned over its day-to-day oper­a­tions to his chil­dren.

His po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents say he is en­rich­ing him­self through money that U.S. gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and for­eign of­fi­cials pay for rooms, bar tabs and other ex­penses at his prop­er­ties, such as the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

That, they say, vi­o­lates the emol­u­ments clauses of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which restrict the pres­i­dent from mak­ing money off the fed­eral gov­ern­ment beyond his of­fi­cial salary and restrict him from ac­cept­ing items of value from for­eign gov­ern­ments.

Like so much else in Mr. Trump’s pres­i­dency, his op­po­nents have filed mul­ti­ple law­suits, which are now play­ing out.

One ethics watch­dog sued in fed­eral court in New York on be­half of food ser­vice or­ga­ni­za­tions. That case also was tossed for lack of stand­ing, but the watch­dog has ap­pealed.

Sen. Richard Blu­men­thal, Con­necti­cut Demo­crat, has sued in U.S. Dis­trict Court for the Dis­trict of Columbia and has won sev­eral ini­tial rul­ings, in­clud­ing that Mr. Trump’s in­come from his ho­tels counts as emol­u­ments. The judge in that case also ruled that Mr. Blu­men­thal has stand­ing as a mem­ber of Congress.

The third ma­jor law­suit was brought by the at­tor­neys gen­eral of the Dis­trict and Mary­land, who ar­gued that their states’ busi­ness in­ter­ests com­peted with Trump prop­er­ties. That in­jury al­lowed them to sue, they ar­gued.

The 4th Cir­cuit said that was too ten­u­ous.

“The Dis­trict and Mary­land’s in­ter­est in en­forc­ing the Emol­u­ments Clauses 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,” Judge Paul V. Niemeyer wrote in the opin­ion for the unan­i­mous three-judge panel.

Judge Niemeyer also cast doubt on the push to rope courts into polic­ing the pres­i­dent.

“Up un­til the se­ries of suits re­cently brought against this pres­i­dent un­der the Emol­u­ments Clauses, no court has ever en­ter­tained a claim to en­force them,” he said, adding that the law­suits “raise novel and dif­fi­cult con­sti­tu­tional ques­tions, for which there is no prece­dent.”

Mr. Trump called the rul­ing a vic­tory over “the Deep State and Demo­crat in­duced Witch Hunt” — seem­ingly ty­ing the emol­u­ments mat­ter into the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Rus­sian med­dling and Trump cam­paign be­hav­ior dur­ing the 2016 cam­paign.

The Jus­tice Depart­ment called the law­suit “ex­traor­di­nar­ily flawed” and cheered the rul­ing.

“The court cor­rectly de­ter­mined that the plain­tiffs im­prop­erly asked the courts to ex­ceed their con­sti­tu­tional role by re­view­ing the pres­i­dent’s com­pli­ance with the Emol­u­ments Clauses,” said spokes­woman Kelly Laco.

Mr. Trump do­nates his $400,000 an­nual salary to var­i­ous gov­ern­ment oper­a­tions each quar­ter, but crit­ics say in­ter­est in his ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton, golf re­sorts and other oper­a­tions has ben­e­fited his busi­ness em­pire dur­ing his pres­i­dency.

The ap­peals court’s rul­ing over­turned a lower court in Mary­land, which al­lowed the D.C. and Mary­land case to move for­ward.

That judge was a Demo­cratic ap­pointee. All three judges on the ap­peals court were Repub­li­can ap­pointees.


FO­CUS OF LAW­SUIT: Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel is part of the pres­i­dent’s busi­ness em­pire. His po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents say he is en­rich­ing him­self through money paid by U.S. gov­ern­ment and for­eign of­fi­cials.

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