A federal judge on Thursday indicated that he’s willing to consider arguments that President Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, gaining favor from state and foreign leaders through his hotels.
US District Court Judge Peter Messitte of the District of Maryland disagreed with a decision reached last week by Judge George Daniels of New York’s district court, Politico reports.
Last month, Judge Daniels’ court dismissed accusations that President Trump’s elected position puts competitors of the Trump organization at a disadvantage.
“He just said that in a sentence,” Messitte said of Daniels’ decision. “There’s very little analysis in his declarations. … I’m not really bound by even the logic at this point, with all respect to Judge Daniels.”
Washington, D.C.’s Solicitor General, Loren AliKhan, argued that Florida officials have gained favor with the president by resolving disputes related to the Mar-a-Lago Trump property in Palm Beach.
She made similar comments about Maine’s Gov. Paul LePage, who has stayed at the Trump International Hotel in D.C.
“We think the Maine example does suggest the president is giving special favors to states that are tendering emoluments,” AliKhan said.
Plaintiffs asserted that President Trump is in violation of two constitutional clauses: one that prohibits the president from receiving emoluments from states, and another that bars emoluments from foreign powers.
Judge Messitte heard out their arguments.
“You have diplomats from several Arab countries who have declared that they are taking their business to the Trump International Hotel … in order to curry favor with the president,” he said.
Justice Department attorney Brett Shumate called D.C. and Maryland’s claims “speculative,” and resisted Judge Messitte’s openness to having the case proceed to a discovery stage, which could subject the Trump hotel to a detailed examination of its financial records.
“They don’t get to do a fishing expedition of discovery with the president’s businesses to try to meet the burden,” Shumate said.
Although he appeared willing to allow the case to proceed, Messitte expressed concern that the suit named President Trump in his political capacity, and recommended the plaintiffs amend their suit to name Trump personally.
AliKhan said they might follow the suggestion, but didn’t think it was necessary.
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