A federal appeals court denied President Trump's request to block a lawsuit that accuses him of violating the Constitution's emoluments clause, which bans government leaders from receiving gifts or profiting from foreign or domestic officials. In a 9-6 ruling, the court's decision opens up the president's business to financial scrutiny in an election year.
The lawsuit was originally brought by the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, which argued that the president violated the emoluments clause when his Washington, D.C. hotel accepted the business of foreign and state governments. Thursday's ruling, issued by the court's full 15-judge panel, allows the finances of the Trump Organization to be examined as the lawsuit proceeds into fact-gathering stages, which will include the review of financial documents.
"We recognize that the President is no ordinary petitioner, and we accord him great deference as the head of the Executive branch," Circuit Judge Diana Motz wrote, explaining why the court had decided against dismissing the lawsuit. "But Congress and the Supreme Court have severely limited our ability to grant the extraordinary relief the President seeks."
This is the second time the 4th Circuit has ruled in this case. Last July, the president prevailed, when a panel of three Republican-nominated judges overturned a District court's ruling that said the lawsuit could move forward. The three-judge panel ruled that the case had no legal basis because the plaintiffs did not have standing to pursue the case.
The lawsuit, which has been making its way through the legal system for years, is not the only litigation accusing Mr. Trump of misusing his position to benefit his business. If the president wishes to appeal this decision, however, he will have to take it to the Supreme Court.
CBS News has asked the D.C. attorney general and the Justice Department for comment.
According to Mr. Trump's financial disclosure report, he earned more than $100 million from his properties in 2018, including $40.8 million from his D.C. hotel. After his election Trump decided not to divest from his company and instead handed control to his two sons, Don, Jr and Eric.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Washington, D.C., has ordered nonessential businesses to close and placed restrictions on restaurants and bars, including the Trump International Hotel. The New York Times reported that the Trump Organization has cut staff from its hotels in New York and Washington.