Thursday, May 14, 2020

En Banc 4th Circuit Revives Emoluments Lawsuit Against Trump “Allowing the president to be the final arbiter of both the interpretation and enforcement of the law—as the dissents would—would gravely offend separation of powers,” the court’s majority opinion states. (WaPo)

Appeals court rules against Trump on Emoluments Clause

A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled against President Trump in a lawsuit alleging that he's violated the Constitution's Emoluments Clauses.

The decision from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals keeps the case alive, rejecting the president's efforts to preserve immunity from the suit, which was filed by the attorneys general from Washington, D.C., and Maryland.

The court did not rule on the merits of the case against Trump.

The majority in the 9-6 decision found that Trump had prematurely filed an appeal in the case before a district judge had ruled on his motion to remove him from the list of defendants in the suit.

“Here, the district court neither expressly nor implicitly refused to rule on immunity,” the majority wrote in a brief eight-page opinion. "It did not make any rulings with respect to the President in his individual capacity. To the contrary, the district court stated in writing that it intended to rule on the President’s individual capacity motion. Despite the President’s suggestion, the district court’s deferral did not result in a delay ‘beyond reasonable limits.’ ”

The decision revives the dormant lawsuit against the president.

Trump's attorney vowed to take the case to the Supreme Court.

“We disagree with the decision of the Fourth Circuit," Jay Sekulow, the president's private counsel, said in a statement. "This case is another example of Presidential harassment. We will be seeking review at the Supreme Court.”

The decision comes five months after the case was argued before the circuit court in December.

The full court decided to rehear the case after a three-judge panel sided with the president last year.The D.C. and Maryland attorneys general filed the lawsuit in 2017 accusing Trump of violating the Constitution's Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses, which were designed to prevent the president and other government officials from receiving money or gifts from other governments in order to curry favor.

Their lawsuit alleged that the president's vast private business holdings, specifically his hotel in D.C., violated the clauses and put him in "compromising financial entanglements with foreign and domestic governments."

"President Trump’s continued ownership interest in a global business empire, which renders him deeply enmeshed with a legion of foreign and domestic government actors, violates the Constitution and calls into question the rule of law and the integrity of the country’s political system," they wrote in the lawsuit.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh applauded the decision in a brief phone interview with The Hill on Thursday.

"The rationale is basically founded on the principle that the president of the United States, like every other citizen, is subject to the Constitution and the laws of the U.S.," Frosh said. "He can't just because he's president say, 'I'm not going to be subject to discovery, I'm not going to be subject to litigation and I don't have to follow the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution.' "

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He added that he's looking forward to gathering evidence in the case once it's returned to the district court, but predicts that Trump will try to fight the decision at the Supreme Court.

The Department of Justice and the president's personal lawyers have argued in various lawsuits that the Trump hotels and other businesses do not violate the emoluments clauses because they are normal business dealings. In this case, they have also argued that the attorneys general lack standing and that the president is immune to such lawsuits.

Updated at 10:48 a.m.

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