Judge Rules DC, Maryland Have Standing To Sue Trump

Win McNamee  Getty Images North America

Win McNamee Getty Images North America

According to Vox, the judge was expected to dismiss the lawsuit, which argues that Trump's continued involvement in the Trump Organization violates the Constitution's "emoluments" clause.

It's the first time such a lawsuit has cleared this initial legal hurdle.

Donald Trump's legal fight to keep the public from prying too far into his private business dealings was dealt a serious blow Wednesday when a Maryland judge ruled that a lawsuit, alleging the president is violating the US Constitution by continuing to own his business empire while he holds office, may go forward.

A judge in the U.S. state of Maryland allowed the filing of a lawsuit against President Donald Trump, which claimed that he had violated the constitution emoluments clause, banning USA officials from receiving gifts or payments from foreign states.

The ruling, which is likely to be appealed, was made by US District Judge Peter J. Messitte.

Trump International Hotel in D.C. Michael A. Scarcella/ ALM Media.

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"This is in no way meant to say that other States or other businesses or individuals immediately affected by the same sort of violations alleged in the case at bar, e.g., a major hotel competitor in Palm Beach (near Mar-a-Lago) or indeed a hotel competitor anywhere in the State of Florida, might not have standing to pursue litigation similar to that which is in process here", Messitte wrote.

The attorneys general celebrated the ruling. "Our case moves forward!" The section prohibits federal officials from accepting certain gifts or payments from foreign governments or USA states, though there is debate over what exactly an "emolument" is.

Ethics experts and lawmakers have repeatedly raised concerns about foreign officials' patronage of Trump's properties. He did not fully divest himself of it as experts had hoped.

Maryland and D.C. claimed various types of injuries from the alleged violations, such as being placed in an "intolerable dilemma" in which they must either grant special favors to the Trump Organization or risk losing out to other states that do so.

Messitte also notes that one of Trump's argument in the case, that only Congress can approve or bar the president from receiving emoluments, is "particularly concerning", because Congress can be controlled by the same party as the president and choose to do nothing. As for the debate over the meaning of the Emoluments clause, Trump's legal team has argued that it does not apply to business transactions. Messitte said it "remains to be seen" which capacity will work for the case, but that the issue would not block the case for now. His lawyers had three weeks to respond.

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