An ethics lawsuit against President Donald Trump that argues his business interests are conflicts of interest and violate the US Constitution can continue in federal court, a federal appeals court said Monday.
The lawsuit, the plaintiffs of which include a hotel operator and a group of restaurants, argues that Trump’s “vast, complicated and secret” business arrangements violate a constitutional provision, the Emoluments Clause, which bars the president from accepting gifts from foreign governments without the permission of Congress.
This is one of several cases about the Emoluments Clause and whether Trump’s business holdings violate it while he serves as President. All have progressed slowly in court and dealt with major questions that courts largely haven’t interpreted since the Founding Fathers wrote the anti-corruption clause into the Constitution.
The 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals voted Monday not to take it up, according to a court filing. That means the case can continue in a lower court.
In support of the decision, Judge Pierre Leval wrote that “putting aside whether courts have jurisdiction to hear a suit seeking an injunction or declaratory relief against the President on the grounds that his official acts on behalf of the United States violate the Constitution, the proposition has no application to this case, which questions the lawfulness of the President’s purely private conduct of selling hotel and restaurant services.”
Judge John Walker, writing in opposition to the decision, however, wrote that “this case warranted en banc review because of its exceptional national importance. The interpretation and application of the Emoluments Clauses, including the threshold question of whether private actors have Article III standing to enforce the Clauses, raise constitutional questions of first impression in this circuit and in the federal courts nationwide.”