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Emoluments Lawsuit Against President Trump Allowed To Proceed

Mar 28, 2018
Originally published on March 28, 2018 4:54 pm

Updated at 5:20 p.m. ET

A federal judge has ruled that a lawsuit alleging President Trump is violating the anti-corruption sections of the Constitution, known as the emoluments clauses, can proceed.

Federal District Judge Peter Messitte, in Greenbelt, Md., ruled that Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh and District of Columbia Attorney General Karl Racine have legal standing to sue Trump. They allege that Trump wrongly profits when foreign officials do business at the hotel he owns near the White House.

This is the first victory for plaintiffs in the three emoluments lawsuits against Trump. A federal judge in New York City ruled in December that plaintiffs in a separate suit lacked standing; that case is being appealed. A hearing in a third lawsuit is scheduled for June 7.

Frosh told NPR they expect to proceed with discovery — the process of obtaining relevant documents from Trump.

But Messitte wants a second hearing in the case, in part to examine the meaning of the emoluments clauses, which have never been considered in court. The domestic Emoluments Clause says the president cannot accept money or favors from state governments. The Foreign Emoluments Clause bars federal officials from getting rewards or benefits from foreign governments.

The judge also narrowed the lawsuit's scope, saying the plaintiffs could not raise emoluments questions about Trump properties outside the Washington area.

The Justice Department is expected to fight the discovery motion.

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