A federal judge just shot down the President’s attempts to block a lawsuit accusing him of violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution by continuing to do business with foreign governments and profiting off of his lofty position.
U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte ruled that the lawsuit by Maryland and Washington D.C.’s Attorneys General can proceed, which opens the door for their legal teams to interview Trump Organization employees and subpoena the records from Trump’s Washington D.C. hotel, where foreign dignitaries have made a point of staying in order to curry favor with the President and funnel money into his pockets.
The Trump Organization, which is now ostensibly run by the president’s sons, swears they have donated all the profits from foreign government spending to the U.S. Treasury. The Treasury has confirmed they have indeed received a check for last year’s profits, but neither party will tell the public how much money it was for, which raises a whole new set of questions.
The U.S. Constitution bars federal officials from taking emoluments from any “King, Prince, or Foreign State,” notes the Washington Post. The clause was originally implemented to prevent ambassadors from being bribed by their host nations with gifts of gold or jewels.
But its modern application has yet to be legally defined since Trump is the first president to so brazenly retain hold of his business empire and to use the office of the Presidency as a personal enrichment machine.
While Trump’s attorneys have tried to argue that it is legal for the president to continue to receive the payments since he would have to show some “corrupt intent” and take action to reward the foreign government in order for it to be illegal, Judge Messite clearly thinks otherwise.
The president’s legal team now has the chance to appeal the decision up to a higher court and potentially block the Attorneys General from getting ahold of the Trump Organization’s books until the matter is settled — but make no mistake; this a significant blow for the president, who is forced to helplessly watch as all his myriad legal troubles escalate at the worst possible moment.