No other President has pushed it so far as to force a judge to define what the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution would mean in today’s modern world. Trump’s lack of ethics has forced that definition to be made, as Maryland’s U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte denied Trump’s plea to stop a lawsuit against him brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia.
For the 1st time, a federal judge has defined the word "emoluments" (which the Founding Fathers said federal officials shouldn't take from foreign govts). He sides against @realDonaldTrump, who said in effect that it should just mean "bribes" — outright gifts, given to corrupt. https://t.co/XoeL2KjVkh
— David Fahrenthold (@Fahrenthold) July 25, 2018
The Chair for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Norm Eisen, who was a former Ambassador and Obama White House Ethics Czar, shared the foreboding news with Trump on Twitter. It appears those pesky emoluments will be among the many legal concerns faced by the Trump administration in the near future after all.
Eisen sees this as a big win.
Prosecutors could soon have access to Trump Organization records to examine money spent at Trump’s downtown Washington D.C. hotel, Trump International. If foreign countries spent money there, that could be defined as an “emolument.”
Interestingly, this lawsuit will be focused only on Trump’s Washington hotel, although he owns many other businesses that could be taking in foreign money.
The Washington Post suggests that the Justice Department will probably try to appeal the decision and delay allowing access to Trump’s records and his still unseen tax returns.
“The Justice Department and Trump’s attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment. They could try to appeal the decision to a higher court and ask Messitte not to allow the attorneys general access to Trump Organization employees and books until the appeal is decided.”
It looks like (sooner or later) Trump may be held accountable for his conflicts of interest with foreign governments after all, even with a so-far complicit Congress failing to keep it in check.