Emoluments Lawsuit Update: Making History and What’s Next

As part of AG Racine’s work to protect public integrity, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) scored another major win this month when a federal court denied President Trump’s effort to block the emoluments lawsuit brought by the District of Columbia and Maryland. In the lawsuit, the District and Maryland allege President Trump is violating the Constitution’s original anti-corruption laws – the Emoluments Clauses – by accepting money from foreign and domestic governments through transactions at the Trump International Hotel here in the District. The Framers designed these anti-corruption laws to ensure Americans never have to wonder whether the president is working on our behalf or in his personal financial interest.

AG Racine and AG Frosh announcing their emoluments lawsuit in June 2017.

To better understand the case and why it is so important, here is a look at what has happened so far and what is next:

Making History

  • June 2017 - Emoluments lawsuit filed: AG Racine and Maryland AG Frosh sued President Trump to stop him from violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clauses, our nation’s original anti-corruption laws.
  • March 2018 - Court approves the case to move forward: The court found that the District and Maryland had “standing” to sue President Trump about monies and benefits he is receiving at the Trump International Hotel in the District. Standing is essentially a legal hurdle that requires plaintiffs to allege sufficient harm to bring the lawsuit.
  • July 2018 - Historic court ruling on definition of emolument: For the first time in history, a court ruled on the meaning of the Emoluments Clauses. In the ruling, a federal judge agreed with the District and Maryland’s interpretation that the Constitution prohibits the president from accepting almost anything of value from foreign or domestic governments. That includes money from business transactions like those the lawsuit alleges are occurring at the Trump International Hotel.
  • November 2018 - Court denies Trump mid-case appeal: The court denied President Trump’s latest attempt to block the case when DOJ sought a rare mid-case appeal.

What’s Next

The next step in the case is discovery—the legal procedure where parties gather evidence. The District and Maryland provided the court a new schedule to begin the process of getting information about how President Trump is profiting from the presidency. Specifically, much of the information gathering will be directed at the third-party entities that own, control, and manage the Trump International Hotel and its restaurant. Once the court approves the proposed schedule, the case may proceed to discovery.

For the latest updates on this case, visit OAG’s Emoluments Lawsuit page.