On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte gave an unexpected green light to the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, who had claimed in a lawsuit that payments to properties owned by Donald Trump violate the Constitution’s arcane foreign and domestic Emoluments Clauses. Messitte, who works out of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland, found that the plaintiffs have standing to proceed with their case, at least with respect to the Trump International Hotel in D.C., but not properties in other states.
In a similar case in December, a judge in New York ruled against a different set of plaintiffs, finding they had not shown they were directly harmed by domestic and foreign officials making payments to Trump properties. But in his 47-page ruling, Messitte denied the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss with respect to Trump properties in the District of Columbia but not Maryland. The court made no other decisions beyond finding that the plaintiffs have standing to move forward with their case.
Of particular note, wrote the judge, was the Trump International Hotel D.C., “a five-star, luxury hotel located on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., in Washington, near the White House.” He noted that “[d]irectly or indirectly, the President shares in the revenues that the Hotel and its appurtenant restaurant, bar, and event spaces generate.” Messitte noted that “[s]ince the President’s election, a number of foreign governments have patronized or expressed a definite intention to patronize the Hotel, some of which have indicated that they are doing so precisely because of the President’s association with it” and made special mention of the fact that “at least one State—the State of Maine—patronized the Hotel when its Governor, Paul LePage, visited Washington to discuss official business with the Federal Government.”