Attorneys general from Maryland and the District of Columbia are decrying an appeals court’s decision to dismiss their emoluments lawsuit against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, which they believe adds support to the notion that the president can benefit financially from his private business without substantial checks and balances.
In a statement to Newsweek, a spokesperson for Washington D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, two of the leading plaintiffs in a lawsuit alleging that Trump is improperly profiting from his position as president through his private business, said that the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals “got it wrong” in Wednesday’s decision.
“Although the court described a litany of ways in which this case is unique, it failed to acknowledge the most extraordinary circumstance of all: President Trump is brazenly profiting from the Office of the President in ways that no other President in history ever imagined and that the founders expressly sought—in the Constitution—to prohibit,” the spokesperson said in a written statement.
“We have not and will not abandon our efforts to hold President Trump accountable for violating the Nation’s original anti-corruption laws,” the statement continued.
The lawsuit concerns the president’s real estate empire and whether businesses in Maryland and the District of Columbia have lost revenue as a result of having to compete with the high-profile network of Trump Organization hotels, a prominence only made possible by Trump’s ascent to the presidency and his company’s decision to accept bookings from foreign entities.
A spokesperson for the Department of Justice, which is representing Trump in multiple emoluments lawsuits, said in a written statement to Newsweek that it is “pleased that the Fourth Circuit unanimously decided to dismiss this extraordinarily flawed case.”
“The court correctly determined that the plaintiffs improperly asked the courts to exceed their constitutional role by reviewing the President’s compliance with the Emoluments Clauses,” Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco said.
The plaintiffs could ask the full roster of Fourth Circuit judges to review the panel’s decision or ask the Supreme Court to take up the case. A spokesperson for the plaintiffs would not confirm to Newsweek what they planned to do in response to Wednesday’s decision.
The decision originated from a complicated series of legal maneuvers by which the plaintiffs tried to keep the case out of the appellate court’s jurisdiction, a strategy that proved unsuccessful after Trump’s lawyers managed to get the Fourth Circuit to intervene about a claim unrelated to Wednesday’s decision: whether or not the president, in his personal capacity, is absolutely immune from such lawsuits.
The Fourth Circuit used the immunity question as an opportunity to review the underlying groundwork for the case, whether or not the District of Columbia and Maryland are even able to sue under the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause in the first place. Rejecting the trial judge’s findings, the three-judge panel found that the plaintiffs did not have standing and decided to dismiss the case.
There are currently two other emoluments lawsuits playing out in federal court against the president, neither of which has yet gone to discovery.