In a ruling passed down by a federal judge on Wednesday, a case brought against Donald Trump alleging his business interests violate the Constitution now that he is president will proceed in the court of law. Federal District Judge Peter Messitte was forced to define “emolument,” the first ruling of its kind in a federal court since it goes undefined in the Constitution.
According to NPR, both The Foreign Emoluments Clause and The Domestic Emoluments Clause bar “any president from personally profiting from his dealings with foreign governments – or even U.S. state governments.”
“Plaintiffs have plausibly alleged that the President has been receiving or is potentially able to receive ’emoluments’ from foreign, the federal and state governments in violation of the Constitution,” Messitte wrote in the case opinion.
While the Justice Department, who is representing Trump in this case, said the clause is irrelevant when it comes to Trump’s businesses. But the plaintiffs, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine, argued that the Trump International Hotel is being used by his supporters as a place to conduct fundraisers and conferences as well as foreign governments hosting events and putting “dignitaries” up in hotel rooms.
Because of this, the plaintiffs said “their jurisdictions are economically and financially harmed as political and diplomatic officials shift their business to Trump’s downtown Washington, D.C., hotel from nearby convention centers owned by those governments,” NPR reported.
“For the reasons that follow, the Court determines the Plaintiffs have convincingly argued that the term ’emolument’ in both the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses, with slight refinements that the Court will address, means any ‘profit,’ ‘gain,’ or ‘advantage’ and that accordingly they have stated claims to the effect that the President, in certain instances, has violated both the Foreign and Domestic Clauses. The Court DENIES the Motion to Dismiss in that respect,” Messitte wrote in the case opinion.
The doors are now open for the Maryland and District of Columbia legal teams to start collecting sensitive financial information from both Trump and the Trump Organization.