A federal judge on Wednesday rejected President Trump’s push to dismiss a lawsuit accusing him of violating the Constitution by collecting profits from his luxury hotel in the nation’s capital.
U.S. District Court Judge Peter Messitte shot down the Justice Department’s request to dismiss the lawsuit, which argued the plaintiffs had no legal standing to sue. The judge, based in Greenbelt, Md., said he will schedule another hearing to weigh the administration’s other claims.
The decision is a blow to Trump, who has long claimed that his business arrangements are legal and do not pose a conflict of interest.
Critics say that Trump is violating the emoluments clause, which bans presidents from receiving gifts or payments from foreign governments without Congress’s explicit approval.
After the 2016 election, Trump broke with precedent by refusing to divest in his businesses. The then-president elect instead placed his assets in a trust controlled by his two adult sons.
Ethics watchdogs say the president is violating the clause every time his hotels or golf courses receive payments from foreign governments because Trump still owns his stake in them.
The Trump Organization has said it would donate all profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury. Last month, the Treasury Department said it received a check from the business meant to cover last year, but would not confirm the check’s amount or date.
Messitte sided with attorneys general in Washington, D.C., and Maryland who argued they have standing to sue because other hotels in the region must compete with the Trump International Hotel for business.
“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, an appointee of former President Clinton, wrote in his ruling.
The suit is one of three alleging that Trump is violating the emoluments clause. A New York judge threw out one suit last year, but another one brought by Democratic lawmakers is still working its way through a D.C. court.
The case in Maryland is far from over, as the Justice Department could argue there other reasons why it should thrown out of court.
Updated at 2:07 p.m.