Nov. 3 (UPI) — A federal judge has denied President Donald Trump‘s request for a stay in a case that alleges he did business with foreign governments, a violation of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution.
On Friday, U.S. District Judge Peter J. Messitte in Greenbelt, Md., denied delaying the case so a higher court can intervene and cleared the way for plaintiffs to see information about customers at Trump International Hotel.
“The President’s ownership interest in the Trump International Hotel and his apparent receipt of benefits from at least some foreign and state governments, as well as from the Federal Government itself, suggest that he has received ’emoluments’ in violation of the Constitution,” the judge wrote.
Messitte earlier determined the definition of word emoluments, in the context of the late 1700s, broadly could include sales of goods or services. That meant that Trump renting ballrooms to foreign-government customers could be considered emoluments.
Trump has said it only applies to payments made to specifically to influence his behavior as president.
The judge reasoned: “By every reasonable metric, [Trump‘s definition] appears to describe what is tantamount to a bribe.” He called that interpretation “exceedingly strained.”
The judge wrote the court considers it a “dubious proposition” that emoluments is the subject of such “substantial grounds of disagreement” that payments received from foreign governments could not qualify.
“The Department of Justice disagrees with and is disappointed by this ruling,” spokeswoman Kelly Laco told The Washington Post. “This case, which should have been dismissed, presents important questions that warrant immediate appellate review.”
The Trump Organization did not immediately return requests by the newspaper for comment.
Governments in Washington, D.C., and Maryland have argued the president has failed to comply with the emoluments clause.
“Today’s decision affirms once again that Maryland and the District of Columbia have
standing to sue, with the court emphasizing that the President’s proposed definition of the term
emolument is ‘exceedingly strained’ and would prohibit only ‘what is tantamount to a
bribe,'” Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh said in a statement. “We agree with the court that the President’s motion was nothing more than an attempt to delay the ultimate resolution of our lawsuit, a tactic that the court said ‘as a matter of justice, cannot be countenanced.'”
D.C. Attorney General Karl Racine posted on Twitter: “Our case is still moving forward and we will continue to work to stop Pres. Trump from violating the Constitution and profiting from the presidency.
The judge ordered the attorneys general for the District and Maryland to submit a schedule for discovery within 20 days, though that decision is subject to appeal.
Information in the case is limited to the District hotel. In a second civil case, Trump on Tuesday agreed to produce portions of his calendar from 2007 and 2008 in a defamation lawsuit by former “Apprentice” contestant Summer Zervos.
In his opinion, Messitte noted Trump‘s threats to sue author Michael Wolff and former adviser Stephen Bannon as well as Trump‘ comments about former CIA director John Brennan in August. After Trump revoked Brennan’s security clearance, Trump wrote on Twitter: “I hope John Brennan, the worst CIA Director in our country’s history, brings a lawsuit.”
“It bears noting that the President himself seems to have had little reluctance to pursue personal litigation despite the supposed distractions it imposes on his office,” Messitte wrote.