Author: Stephen Dinan
A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled in favor of President Trump’s business interests, tossing a lawsuit brought by Maryland and Washington, D.C., arguing 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 D.C. don’t have standing to complain about Mr. Trump’s actions.
The ruling was based on procedural grounds, and does not mean the president is in the clear. Indeed, he suffered a setback last month in a similar lawsuit brought by congressional Democrats.
Mr. Trump still touted it 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 his ownership in his business empire, though he has turned over day-to-day operations to his children.
His political opponents say he’s enriching himself through money U.S. government officials and foreign officials pay for rooms, bar tabs and other expenses at his properties, such as the Trump International hotel in 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 things of value from foreign governments.
Like so much else in Mr. Trump’s presidency, his opponents 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 was tossed for lack of standing, but the watchdog has appealed.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal sued in federal court in D.C., and he’s won several initial rulings, including that Mr. Trump’s income from his hotels counts as emoluments. The judge in that case also ruled Mr. Blumenthal has standing as a member of Congress.
The third major lawsuit was brought by the attorneys general in D.C. and Maryland, who argued 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,” wrote Judge Paul Va. Niemeyer, in the opinion for the unanimous three-judge panel.
Their ruling overturned a lower court in Maryland, which had 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.
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 president donates his $400,000 annual salary to various government operations each quarter.
Critics say his business empire, such as his hotel in Washington and his golf resorts, have benefited from increased business during his presidency.
• Dave Boyer contributed to this story.