U.S. appeals court rules against Trump in foreign payments case

13 Septembre, 2019, 21:11 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • CREDIT REUTERS

The lawsuit argues that Trump failed to comply with the Constitution's emoluments clause by profiting from domestic and foreign officials who visit his hotels and restaurants. The judge granted a motion by the Department of Justice to dismiss the case.

The plaintiffs said a judge should issue an injunction enjoining Trump from violating the clauses and also argued that an injunction should be issued requiring Trump to release financial records "in order to confirm that he is not engaging in further transactions that would violate the Emoluments Clauses".

But, if Trump appeals, as is expected, the case could go to the full Second Circuit - and after that, to the Supreme Court.

The majority opinion, written by Circuit Judge Pierre N. Leval, took issue with Walker's observations, saying that legal challenges under the Constitution's Emoluments Clause may be "fuelled in part by political motivations" but it is hard to ascertain the significance of that fact. Along with hotel rooms and steaks, they say, he can sell something they can't: access to power, and a chance to please the president.

The lawsuit, brought by people in the hospitality industry, appealed a lower court dismissal, after the Southern District of NY said they didn't have a specific injury needed to substantiate their legal claim that the president violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. He threw the case out.

In Friday's ruling, the two appeals court judges - both appointed by Democratic presidents - brought it back. They said it wasn't necessary to identify a specific customer that Trump had lured away.

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A district court had thrown out the case, claiming the plaintiffs did not have standing. They said that the businesses had plausibly sketched out how they might be affected - and that was enough to continue to the fact-gathering stage of the case.

"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", he added.

The Justice Department, which is representing Trump in this case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. So he's benefitting from illegal competition.

The president has said he is losing money by being in office and last month dismissed the lawsuits. "Every dollar of government patronage drawn to Trump establishments by the hope of currying favor with the President is a lost dollar of revenue that might otherwise have gone to Plaintiffs".

But the appeals court held that the initial goal of the clause didn't matter, so far as the businesses were able to claim a legitimate injury that stemmed from Trump allegedly receiving emoluments.

The plaintiffs cite examples of foreign government entities, including the Embassy of Kuwait and a delegation from Malaysia, choosing Trump's properties, such as the Trump International Hotel in Washington, over other venues. A recently retired Trump Organization executive, George Sorial, said this summer that the company's foreign revenue was about $1 million in 2018 - and that 90 percent of that came in through the Trump hotel in downtown Washington.

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