Federal Court Allows Lawsuit Alleging Trump Emoluments Violations to Proceed

In a July 25th opinion, Judge Peter J. Messitte of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland denied  a motion filed by the Department of Justice to dismiss case that the District of Columbia and the State of America had brought against President Trump in both his official and individual capacity.  The plaintiffs have alleged that the President has violated the Emoluments Clauses of the United States Constitution by actually or potential receiving, directly or indirectly, payments by foreign, Federal Government, and state governments (or any of their instrumentalities) in connection with the President’s and the Trump Organization’s ownership of the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

In a 52-page opinion, the court issued the first judicial decision ever interpreting the Emoluments Clauses. The Court found that the President is subject to both Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution and that the term “emolument” in both Clauses extends to any profit, gain, or advantage, of more than minimal value, received by him, directly or indirectly, from foreign, the federal, or domestic governments. This includes profits from private transactions, even those involving services provided at fair market value.

The court concluded that the plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the President has been receiving or is potentially able to receive emoluments from foreign, the federal, and state governments in violation of the Constitution and have stated viable claims for relief under both the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses.

The court directed the parties to promptly consult and within twenty-one (21) days submit a Joint Recommendation suggesting the next steps to be taken in the case, including whether any further amendment of the Amended Complaint is necessary, what the time for the President to file an Answer herein should be, what the general outline of any proposed discovery should be, and any other matter the parties deem appropriate to bring to the attention of the Court. Discovery would allow plaintiffs to request the records pertaining to payments to the Trump Hotel by foreign and domestic governments.

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