Judge Allows Lawsuit Over Trump's D.C. Hotel To Proceed
Maryland and D.C.'s attorneys general have standing to sue the president of the United States over foreign payments to his company's D.C. hotel, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte said foreign governments spending money at the Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue have "almost certainly" had an illegal effect on competition, giving examples of countries such as Bahrain and Kuwait. Other hotels and convention centers in D.C. and Maryland, some of which the taxpayers have a stake in, could be hurt by foreign and state governments choosing to patronize the president's property, he said.
President Donald Trump still retains ownership of his company, refusing to fully divest himself of his financial interests after taking office. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine argue this arrangement allows Trump to personally benefit from foreign officials who visit the hotel, violating the Constitution's emoluments clause.
The Trump Organization in September 2016 opened the 263-room hotel, a renovation of the historic Old Post Office building. It leases the property from the federal government, an arrangement that has raised its own ethical issues. The hotel has become a central gathering place for influential Republicans and others who are visiting the president at the White House, which sits just four blocks away.
The Justice Department, which is representing the president and argues the case should be dismissed, did not say whether it would appeal the judge's ruling. The Trump Organization said it has donated some of the hotel's profits from foreign governments to the Treasury Department. It is not a party in the case but also said it should be dismissed.
The case is one of several lawsuits filed last year alleging Trump's business arrangement violated the emoluments clause, but the attorneys general are the first plaintiffs a judge has found have standing to sue. A similar suit from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington was dismissed in December.