Yesterday, the Justice Department legal team was dealt a blow when a federal judge denied their bid to derail a lawsuit over President Trump’s ownership of the Trump Hotel in Washington, allowing a landmark emoluments case against the President to proceed, according to the NBC.
The attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C. filed suit against President Trump on the grounds that he receives improper financial benefits when foreign and state governments book their stays at the hotel, which is only a few blocks from the White House. President Trump’s financial gains from such transactions would be in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars the President from receiving “any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
President Trump’s lawyers had asked the presiding judge, Hon. Peter Messitte, for authority to appeal Messitte’s pre-trial determination that the Constitution’s emoluments clause was designed to protect against potentially improper influence on the President. They argued on the grounds that the term “emolument” has a very specific meaning as a payment to the President in addition to his salary, and as such President Trump’s private business dealings should be exempt.
The judge in the emoluments clause case cited this tweet from @realDonaldTrump to reject Trump's argument that any lawsuit would impose undue burdens on the presidency.
In this tweet, Trump actually invited a lawsuit from one of his enemies! He's got time, it seems. https://t.co/RTQbWUhahr
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) November 2, 2018
Judge Messitte ruled that the defense may not appeal parts of the case, and must instead follow protocol and wait for a final ruling before entering an appeal after the verdict.
Justice Department lawyers also sought a stay in the case, attempting to block their challengers from obtaining evidence about President Trump’s hotel business during the discovery process. Judge Messitte also denied this motion, ordering the attorneys general to submit a schedule for discovery within 20 days.
“This is another major win for us in this historic case,” said Karl Racine, the Attorney General for Washington, D.C.
“We will soon provide the court a new schedule to begin the process of getting information about how President Trump is profiting from the Presidency.”
Brian Frosh, the Attorney General of Maryland, said that he hopes to begin the discovery process soon, but does not expect to receive documents for three to four months, and may seek depositions from Trump employees as well as the President himself. He said that his team will seek to obtain the financial records of the hotel, guest lists, and what individual guests paid during their stay.
“We know foreign governments stay there as well as state governments,” said Frosh.
“It’s not a very high bar to prove the President has taken emoluments in violation of the Constitution.”