A federal judge on Friday denied President Donald Trump’s appeal to pause discovery in a lawsuit that alleges he violated a constitutional clause banning gifts and advantages from foreign and domestic governments, raising the possibility that transactions between the Trump International Hotel and foreign dignitaries might be made public.
Trump’s legal team had sought to delay turning over documents while it appeals a decision to allow other portions of the lawsuit to proceed. However, Friday’s ruling, issued by US District Judge Peter Messitte, now clears the path for discovery to move forward on business dealings between the Trump Hotel and foreign dignitaries.
The case was brought by the governments of Washington, DC, and Maryland and argues the President has failed to comply with the emoluments clause through the Trump International Hotel.
Maryland and DC have said the Trump International Hotel’s operations put other nearby hotels and entertainment properties at a competitive disadvantage, and that the Trump hotel got special tax concessions for the hotel, which won its lease on a federally owned property before Trump’s election.
“Accordingly, the President’s ownership interest in the Trump International Hotel and his apparent receipt of benefits from at least some foreign and state governments, as well as from the Federal Government itself, suggest that he has received ’emoluments’ in violation of the Constitution, giving rise to plausible causes of action against him brought by parties with standing,” Friday’s opinion read.
A lawyer for the Trump Organization declined to comment. The White House did not immediately return CNN’s request for comment.
Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh released a statement on Friday saying that the decision “affirms once again that Maryland and the District of Columbia have standing to sue, with the court emphasizing that the President’s proposed definition of the term emolument is ‘exceedingly strained’ and would prohibit only ‘what is tantamount to a bribe.’ ”
“We agree with the court that the President’s motion was nothing more than an attempt to delay the ultimate resolution of our lawsuit, a tactic that the court said ‘as a matter of justice, cannot be countenanced,’ ” the statement continued.
DC Attorney General Karl Racine also released a statement Friday about the ruling: “This is another major win for us in this historic case. Our next step is to proceed with discovery. We will soon provide the court a new schedule to begin the process of getting information about how President Trump is profiting from the presidency.”
In July, Messitte ruled against the Trump legal team’s request to dismiss parts of the lawsuit, and largely sided with Maryland and DC’s definition of emolument as an “advantage.”
Messitte’s July ruling offered the term “emolument” as essentially banning the President from receiving “anything more than de minimis profit, gain, or advantage” in his private capacity, which he echoed in Friday’s opinion and referenced the Foreign Clause and the Domestic Clause in the US Constitution.