A federal appellate court revived a lawsuit against President Donald Trump on Thursday that accuses him of unlawfully profiting from his personal businesses while in his official capacity as commander in chief.
The suit, brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., says Trump is profiting by having foreign officials or dignitaries stay at his Washington hotel — a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments, or Title of Nobility, clause. It’s an anti-corruption clause that bars members of the government from receiving gifts or payments from foreign states and monarchies without congressional approval.
Last year, a three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals threw out the lawsuit, saying the attorneys general didn’t have standing to sue Trump. That court, however, later agreed to grant an “en banc” hearing — and ultimately decided in a rare full-court ruling Thursday to reverse the dismissal and allow the suit to move forward.
The court was split on the vote, 9-6.
“We recognize that the president is no ordinary petitioner, and we accord him great deference as the head of the executive branch,” judge Diana Motz wrote for the majority. “But Congress and the Supreme Court have severely limited our ability to grant the extraordinary relief the president seeks.”
A lower district court judge in Maryland had previously ruled against Trump, whose attorneys argue the president cannot be sued without express approval from Congress.
“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,” Motz added.
Thursday’s decision allows the attorneys general in Maryland and D.C. to seek business records relating to the Trump International Hotel in downtown Washington.
The suit argues that Trump should not be able to profit from foreign and state government visitors who stay at the hotel.
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