Trump’s Legal Defense, ‘But I’m President,’ Shot Down By New York Judge

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to the media before departing the White House for California, where he is scheduled to view damage from the state's wildfires, on November 17, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool / Getty Images

The Trump family legal team attempted to use Trump’s presidency as an actual legal defense, citing the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and stating that “a sitting President may not be sued.”

The presidential defense came from Donald Trump and his family members, who had hoped to have a lawsuit dismissed. The suit was brought against the Trump Foundation and the Trump family, according to CNBC.

The suit was brought by the New York state Attorney General Barbara Underwood, and it says that the Trump Foundation violated both state and federal laws for more than 10 years.

Justice Saliann Scarpulla shot down Trump’s request to dismiss the case. The judge also ruled against Trump’s argument that the state court has no jurisdiction over the case.

“Here, the allegations raised in the Petition do not involve any action taken by Mr. Trump as president and any potential remedy would not affect Mr. Trump’s official federal duties,” Justice Scarpulla wrote in the official decision.

As for the dismissal, Scarpulla said that Trump’s legal counsel “have failed to cite a single case in which any court has dismissed a civil action against a sitting president on Supremacy Clause grounds, where, as here, the action is based on the president’s unofficial acts.”

“I find that I have jurisdiction over Mr. Trump and deny Respondents’ motion to dismiss the petition against him on jurisdictional grounds,” she wrote in her ruling.

“The Trump Foundation functioned as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests,” said New York state Attorney General Barbara Underwood. “There are rules that govern private foundations — and we intend to enforce them, no matter who runs the foundation. We welcome Justice Scarpulla’s decision, which allows our suit to move forward.”

“The decision means only that the case goes forward. As we have maintained throughout, all of the money raised by the Foundation went to charitable causes to assist those most in need. As a result, we remain confident in the ultimate outcome of these proceedings,” one of the lawyers for the Trump Foundation said in a statement.

There are other pending cases against Donald Trump for which the legal defense “I’m the President” may not work. Trump is currently facing a defamation case brought by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, who says the president forced himself on her sexually in 2007.

Barbara Underwood filed the suit in June against the Trump Foundation, Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump as directors of the Foundation, according to the Huffington Post.

“I won’t settle this case!” Trump said on Twitter when the suit was first filed, saying it was the work of “sleazy New York Democrats.”

The White House did not respond to media requests for comment on this case.