FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2019, file photo, the Trump International Hotel near sunset in Washington. A federal appeals court will reconsider a ruling from a three-judge panel that threw out a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of illegally profiting off the presidency through his luxury Washington hotel. The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Tuesday, Oct. 15, to hold a hearing before the full court of 15 judges. Arguments are scheduled for Dec. 12. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

Appeals court to hold rehearing on Trump hotel lawsuit

October 15, 2019 - 6:38 pm
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RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court will reconsider a ruling from a three-judge panel that threw out a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of illegally profiting off the presidency through his luxury Washington hotel.

The Richmond-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Tuesday to hold a hearing before the full court of 15 judges. Arguments are scheduled for Dec. 12.

In a 2017 lawsuit, the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia accused Trump of violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution by accepting profits through foreign and domestic officials who stay at the Trump International Hotel.

A federal judge in Maryland ruled that the lawsuit could move forward.

But a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit overturned that ruling in July , handing the president a significant legal victory. All three judges were nominated by Republican presidents.

The panel found that the two jurisdictions lack standing to pursue claims against the president and granted a petition for a rare writ of mandamus, directing U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte to dismiss the lawsuit.

The decision to allow a full-court hearing brought renewed resolve from officials in Maryland and the District of Columbia, who argued that hotels in their jurisdictions suffer "competitive injury" because officials hoping to curry favor with the president are more likely to stay at his hotel.

"Every single day, President Trump receives payments from foreign governments and from the United States. We intend to hold him accountable for violations of our nation's original anti-corruption laws," Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a statement.

The case is one of three that argue the president is violating the emoluments provision, which prohibits federal officials from accepting benefits from foreign or state governments without congressional approval.

Trump's legal team had argued that Frosh and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine — both Democrats — lack authority to sue the president in his official capacity. Trump's lawyers also argued that the emoluments clause only bars compensation made in connection with services provided in his official capacity or in "an employment-type relationship" with a foreign or domestic government.

The DOJ declined to comment Tuesday after the 4th Circuit announced that the full court will hear the case.

The three-judge panel was sharply critical of the lawsuit when it ruled in Trump's favor, writing that Maryland and the District's "interest in enforcing the Emoluments Clauses is so attenuated and abstract that their prosecution of this case readily provokes the question of whether this action against the President is an appropriate use of the courts."

At the time, Trump heralded the decision in a tweet, saying, "Word just out that I won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt." Trump tweeted that he doesn't make money but loses "a fortune" by serving as president.

The hotel is just blocks from the White House. The iconic Old Post Office quickly became a hot spot for lobbyists and foreign officials after it reopened in October 2016 — shortly before Trump was elected — as the Trump International Hotel.

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