The Trump International Hotel, Washington D.C.
Janhvi Bhojwani | CNBC
The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed two cases over whether former President Donald Trump unlawfully profited from his businesses while in office.
The suits, which were brought by a nonprofit as well as the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, alleged that the former president violated the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, little-known provisions that bar presidents from receiving gifts from local or foreign governments.
The cases were expected to be dismissed after President Joe Biden was elected in November. Maryland, D.C. and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the nonprofit which brought one of the cases, urged the justices not to hear the matter.
The suits simmered for much of Trump’s presidency, one marker of the unusual ethics conflicts inspired by the president’s refusal to turn aside his business empire upon assuming office. The Supreme Court’s action came in an order with no noted dissents.
Maryland and D.C. alleged that Trump violated that prohibition by receiving money when guests — often foreign officials — stayed at his hotel in Washington.
CREW, which represented high-end businesses it said were competing with Trump’s own establishments, made similar complaints about Trump’s hotel and restaurant properties in New York.
Deepak Gupta, an attorney for CREW, argued in court papers that his clients were at a “distinct disadvantage in competing for foreign and domestic government clientele: While they can offer the finest hospitality, they cannot offer the ability to curry favor with the President.”
Two federal appeals courts, based in New York and Richmond, issued rulings advancing the cases. In September, the Justice Department asked the top court to reverse those rulings and throw the disputes out.
Following Biden’s election, the state and D.C. governments and CREW urged the court not to take the cases.
In a brief, Karl Racine, the attorney general for D.C., told the court that “In any event, the outcome of the recent presidential election eliminates any need for this Court’s intervention.”
CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement that “this important litigation made the American people aware for four years of the pervasive corruption that came from a president maintaining a global business and taking benefits and payments from foreign and domestic governments.”
“Only Trump losing the presidency and leaving office ended these corrupt constitutional violations stopped these groundbreaking lawsuits,” Bookbinder said.
Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh said in a joint statement that “we are proud that because of our case, a court ruled on the meaning of ’emoluments’ for the first time in American history, finding that the Constitution prohibits federal officials from accepting almost anything of value from foreign or domestic governments.”
“Our case proves once again that in our country no one — not even the President of the United States — is above the law,” they said.
The Trump Organization did not return a request for comment.