Appeals Court Rules Lawsuit Against Trump Can Move Forward

September 13, 2019 Updated: September 13, 2019

A federal appeals court overturned a ruling by a lower court, ruling on Sept. 13 that a lawsuit against President Donald Trump can proceed.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit watchdog started by former Hillary Clinton ally David Brock, filed a suit with three other plaintiffs against Trump, alleging he was violating the Constitution’s emoluments clauses by not putting all his business assets into a blind trust.

The plaintiffs said a judge should issue an injunction enjoining Trump from violating the clauses and also argued that an injunction should be issued requiring Trump to release financial records “in order to confirm that he is not engaging in further transactions that would violate the Emoluments Clauses.”

U.S. District Judge George Daniels, appointed by President Bill Clinton, dismissed the suit in 2017, saying Trump’s lawyers were correct in arguing the suit’s claims did not fall within the emoluments clauses.

Among the clauses is the Domestic Emoluments Clause, which says the president “shall, at stated Times, receive for his Sevices, a Compensation, which shall neither be encreased nor diminished during the Period for which he shall have been elected, and he shall not receive within that Period any other Emolument from the United States, or any of them.”

In the new ruling (pdf), the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the judgment and remanded the lawsuit for further proceedings.

President Donald Trump plays a round of golf at the Trump Turnberry Resort in Scotland in a 2018 file photograph. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

“A suit brought in federal court is ‘properly dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Rule 12(b)(1) when the district court lacks the statutory or constitutional power to adjudicate it,'” the court stated.

“To the extent that a district court’s dismissal for lack of subject matter jurisdiction was based on the application of a rule of law, an appellate court construes the allegations of the complaint in the light most favorable to Plaintiffs and reviews the district court’s ruling de novo, meaning that our inquiry focuses on whether the rules of law were correctly applied. We conclude that the district court did not apply the law correctly in finding that it lacked jurisdiction to decide the case.”

Judge John Walker, appointed by President Ronald Reagan, opposed the decision by Judges Pierre Leval, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Christopher Droney, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

One emoluments lawsuit brought by several district attorneys was dismissed in July while a separate one against Trump is still active in the courts.

The president has said he is losing money by being in office and last month dismissed the lawsuits.

“I got sued on a thing called emoluments. Emoluments. You ever hear of the word? Nobody ever heard of it before,” Trump said at a speech in Pennsylvania. “And what it is is presidential harassment, because [the presidency] is costing me a fortune, and I love it.”

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
RECOMMENDED