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Trump must face lawsuit alleging he is profiting from White House, court rules

President says case is 'totally without merit' as restaurant and hotel owners say they are losing money

Chris Riotta
New York
Saturday 14 September 2019 10:04 BST
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A lawsuit against Donald Trump that alleged the president’s “vast, complicated and secret” business deals were creating conflicts of interest has been restored by an appeals court after it was previously thrown out in 2017.

A US federal appeals court in New York revived the lawsuit after a lower court had previously concluded that the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue. The appeals panel rejected that reasoning, allowing the case to once again move forward.

The lawsuit was first filed by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a left-leaning government watchdog group that regularly files suits against the administration. Restaurant and hotel owners also joined the lawsuit against the president.

Mr Trump has called the case “totally without merit”.

It says the president was susceptible to officials seeking to curry favour due to his web of hotel, business and real estate relationships since Mr Trump did not take the traditional step of divesting from his private businesses as is typical for US presidents.

Restaurant and hotel owners who say they compete with the president’s businesses brought the case to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan under the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses of the Constitution.

They said Mr Trump was violating the anti-corruption clauses since foreign and domestic officials were spending money at his hotels and businesses since he took office as he continued to profit from that revenue.

Judge Pierre Leval appeared to support those claims when writing the decision to allow the lawsuit to move forward.

“The Complaint plainly asserts that the Plaintiff establishments are losing, and will continue to lose, business from government patrons based on the patrons’ belief that they can obtain official Presidential favour by spending their money in a manner that enriches the President,” the judge wrote.

In a statement, CREW said it “never wanted to be in a position where it would be necessary to go to court to compel the President of the United States to follow the Constitution.”

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“President Trump left us no choice, and we will proudly fight as long as needed to ensure Americans are represented by an ethical government under the rule of law,” said Noah Bookbinder, an executive director of CREW.

Additional reporting by agencies

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