A New York federal appeals court on Friday revived a lawsuit claiming that President Trump violated the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause through his continued financial interest in his properties located in New York City and Washington, D.C.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit threw out a lower court 2017 ruling in a two-to-one vote, dismissing the case brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). CREW’s lawsuit alleges that foreign governments’ association with Trump’s businesses violates the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits federal officials from receiving benefits from foreign governments without Congress’s consent.
The three-judge panel did not say whether they believe Trump violated the Emoluments Clause by serving domestic and foreign governments at his properties, they merely instead the plaintiffs who brought the case have the legal right to sue.
When President Trump took office, he maintained ownership and control of his business empire and said he would no longer maintain day-to-day oversight and placed the Trump Organization into a trust controlled by his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.
This is an unprecedented situation: No other president in recent history has come to office with such an extensive business operation. Trump critics claimed he was violating the Emoluments Clause – a section of the Constitution that prohibits the president from accepting payments from foreign governments. The issue is that these foreign officials spend money when they stay at Trump’s hotels in New York and Washington.
The news comes amid questions about how Trump may be profiting from his presidency, with details emerging about the Air Force’s use of a Trump-owned Scottish resort to house service members and Vice President Mike Pence’s stay at Trump’s Irish resort.
Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the left-leaning watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which brought the lawsuit against the president, applauded the appeals court’s decision.
“We never wanted to be in a position where it would be necessary to go to court to compel the President of the United States to follow the Constitution. However, President Trump left us no choice, and we will proudly fight as long as needed to ensure Americans are represented by an ethical government under the rule of law,” Bookbinder said in a statement. “If President Trump would like to avoid the case going further and curtail the serious harms caused by his unconstitutional conduct, now would be a good time to divest from his businesses and end his violations of the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution,” which is not likely that Trump will do this.
Trump has dismissed the suit as “presidential harassment.”
“I got sued on a thing called emoluments. Emoluments. You ever hear of the word? Nobody ever heard of it before,” he said last month. “And what it is is presidential harassment, because [the presidency] is costing me a fortune, and I love it.”
President Trump has received mixed results in previous Emoluments Clause challenges brought in federal court. In July, a federal appeals court in Virginia dismissed a lawsuit brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, ruling they lacked the legal standing to bring the suit.