Frosh Hails Court Decision Allowing Emoluments Lawsuit to Proceed

    Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh (D) and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine (D) said Thursday they would pursue the 38 subpoenas they previously issued in their case to block President Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C., from collecting payments from foreign and state governments now that a federal appeals court has allowed their lawsuit to proceed.

    “We’re going to press this case to make sure the president follows the law,” Frosh said.

    But in a phone chat with reporters Thursday, Frosh and Racine conceded that they expect the Department of Justice and Trump’s legal team to continue to seek to delay the case.

    In a divided 9-6 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond, Va., refused to dismiss the D.C.-Maryland lawsuit, which claims the president is illegally earning profits from his D.C. hotel in violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

    The decision carried undeniable partisan overtones: All nine of the judges who voted against dismissing the case were appointed by Democratic presidents. The six dissenters were appointed by Republican presidents — including three Trump appointees.

    A three-judge panel of the appeals court had thrown out the AGs’ lawsuit last July, ruling that they did not have the standing to sue the president.

    Although the Trump Organization, the president’s family business, and the Justice Department have yet to comment on the court ruling, Frosh and Racine said they expect the president to try to delay the case further — possibly by asking the U.S. Supreme Court to determine whether the lawsuit can proceed.

    “The president and his team have stalled at every opportunity,” Frosh said. “It would not be out of the realm of possibility that they would attempt to stall again.”

    Frosh characterized any attempt to take the case to the Supreme Court “even more of a Hail-Mary pass” than the Trump team’s effort to get the appeals court to throw it out.

    Frosh and Racine said that in the meantime, they would continue to pursue the 38 subpoenas for Trump’s business records they had already issued in the case — to federal agencies like the General Services Administration, which granted the Trump Organization a lease for the Washington, D.C., hotel during the Obama administration, and several entities that Trump and his family own.

    Racine pointedly said that they are not seeking testimony directly from Trump himself at the moment, nor are they seeking to disrupt his official duties as president.

    “It’s not going to unduly burden or certainly not harass — as President Trump is apt to say — President Trump,” Racine said.

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    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.