The New York Times: “A lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution by maintaining a financial interest in his company’s Washington hotel cleared a critical hurdle on Wednesday when a federal judge allowed the case to move forward. In the first judicial opinion to define how the meaning of the Constitution’s anticorruption clauses should apply to a president, Judge Peter J. Messitte of the United States District Court in Greenbelt, Md., said the framers’ language should be broadly construed as an effort to protect against influence-peddling by state and foreign governments. He ruled that the lawsuit should proceed to the evidence-gathering stage, which could clear the way for an examination of financial records that the president has consistently refused to disclose. The Justice Department is expected to forestall that by seeking an emergency stay and appealing the ruling. The two constitutional clauses at issue restrict a president’s ability to accept financial benefits or “emoluments” from domestic or foreign governments, other than his official salary. No federal judge before has ever interpreted what those bans mean for the president. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the District of Columbia and the State of Maryland, say that Mr. Trump is violating those bans by accepting profits from the Trump International Hotel, a five-star hotel just blocks from the White House that is frequented by foreign and state officials. The judge earlier ruled that the local jurisdictions had standing to sue because the Trump hotel arguably siphons off business from their convention centers or hotels…”
“The historical record reflects that the framers were acutely aware of and concerned about the potential for foreign or domestic influence of any sort over the president,” Messitte wrote. “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. … [H]ow likely is it that he will not be swayed, whether consciously or subconsciously, in any or all of his dealings with foreign or domestic governments that might choose to spend large sums of money at that hotel property? How, indeed, could it ever be proven, in a given case, that he had actually been influenced by the payments? The framers of the clauses made it simple. Ban the offerings altogether.”
- See also Brookings Paper – The Emoluments Clause: Its Text, Meaning, and Application to Donald J. Trump
- And the Washington Post – Move over, Trump. This president’s two lions set off the greatest emoluments debate.
- And the Volokh Conspiracy – “Emoluments” Suit Against Trump Can Proceed Are we all about to get a look – finally! – at Trump’s tax returns?