Five days after the end of Donald Trump’s presidency, the Supreme Court on Monday halted lawsuits accusing him of violating the Constitution’s anti-corruption provisions by maintaining ownership of his business empire including a hotel near the White House while in office.
The justices threw out lower court rulings that had allowed the lawsuits – one filed by the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland and the other by plaintiffs including a watchdog group – to proceed, while also declining to hear Trump’s appeals of those decisions. The justices ordered the lower courts to dismiss the cases because they are now moot.
The plaintiffs accused Trump of running afoul of the Constitution’s “emoluments” provisions that bar presidents from accepting gifts or payments from foreign and state governments without congressional approval. The plaintiffs had asked the Supreme Court to reject Trump’s appeals because the dispute would disappear once he left office last Wednesday.
In one of the cases, plaintiffs including the nonprofit watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a hotel owner and a restaurant trade group, said the former Republican president’s failure to disentangle himself from his businesses had made him vulnerable to inducements by officials seeking to curry favor.
The plaintiffs said that they lost patronage, wages and commissions from clients who chose Trump’s businesses over theirs because of the ability to gain the former president’s favor. After a federal judge initially threw out the case, the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals revived it in 2019.
A 2020 decision by the Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the similar lawsuit by the District of Columbia and Maryland to proceed. That suit focused on the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which became a favored lodging and event space for some foreign and state officials visiting Washington.
A third lawsuit filed by congressional Democrats against Trump ended last year after the Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal of a lower court ruling that the lawmakers lacked the necessary legal standing to pursue the case.