March 28 (UPI) -- A judge allowed a case against President Donald Trump, accusing him of profiting from his Washington hotel while president, to proceed on Wednesday.
U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte rejected a Justice Department request to dismiss the case, in which the plaintiffs argue that Trump is violating the Constitution's emoluments clause by earning profits from the Trump International Hotel.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the U.S. Constitution states, in part, that "no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State." Critics say Trump is violating the clause and presenting a conflict of interest by not divesting himself of his businesses, including the Washington, D.C., hotel.
Watchdogs insist that Trump is violating the Constitution whenever his hotels or golf courses receive a payment from a foreign government. The ruling is a setback for Trump, who broke with precedent after his 2016 election by refusing to divest his businesses. He instead placed his assets in a trust, controlled by his two adult sons.
Messitte, an appointee of former President Bill Clinton, sided with the attorneys general of Maryland and Washington, D.C., who argued that the suit has merit, and they have standing to sue, because other local hotels must compete with Trump's hotel.
"A large number of Maryland and District of Columbia residents are being affected and will continue to be affected when foreign and state governments choose to stay, host events, or dine at the Hotel rather than at comparable Maryland or District of Columbia establishments, in whole or in substantial part simply because of the president's association with it," Messitte wrote in his ruling.
The Justice Department may still seek to have the case rejected on other grounds.