Andrea Mitchell Scoffs at Emoluments Case Getting Tossed: ‘Embassies Have Moved’ Events to Trump Hotel


A federal appeals court dismissed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump on Wednesday, one of several brought against him over the emoluments clause alleging he’s receiving gifts or money from foreign governments that want to curry his favor.

At particular issue in the suit is the Trump Hotel in Washington. MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell discussed the topic at the end of her show on Wednesday, talking with NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams.

Mitchell introduced the segment — by saying the court “sided with President Trump today, dismissing a lawsuit claiming that the president is profiting from foreign and state government visitors at his luxury hotel right here in D.C., in violation of the constitution” — in a tone of muted disbelief, and then she introduced Williams to report.

Williams discussed the various suits, what they allege, and what the courts have decided so far. In the three cases so far, the courts decided in Trump’s favor.

After Williams’ report, Mitchell opined, “Can I just say as someone who’s watched all this take place — this is not a legal argument at all, but I’m just telling you that after he was elected, all of these embassies and foreign governments that used to have their big events at their embassies, moved them. Or not all of them, but many of them move them to the hotel.”

“It’s a dramatic change that took place,” said Mitchell. “But I can understand that’s hard to prove in court, to prove that kind of motive.”

The unanimous decision by the three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the District of Columbia and Maryland had no standing to bring the case. However, as Williams noted, they addressed the central issue, on which Andrea Mitchell was opining, of the basic claim that the president is benefiting from the hotel in violation of the Emoluments clause.

“To begin, the District and Maryland’s theory of proprietary harm hinges on the conclusion that government customers are patronizing the Hotel because the Hotel distributes profits or dividends to the president, rather than due to any of the Hotel’s other characteristics,” it reads, as part of explaining whether there was a harm upon which to base their complaint. “Such a conclusion, however, requires speculation into the subjective motives of independent actors who are not before the court, undermining a finding of causation.”

As Williams said, a matter of being unable to prove why any particular decision to host an event at or obtain services from the Trump Hotel was made. Interestingly, it went on to say that “Indeed, there is a distinct possibility — which was completely ignored by the District and Maryland, as well as by the district court — that certain government officials might avoid patronizing the Hotel because of the President’s association with it.”

Likewise, as Williams said in his report, the question of whether there was even a remedy was brought up, in that there was no reason to assume governments or others who want to get on Trump’s good side would stop using hotel bookings for that purpose if he were prevented specifically from receiving income, simply (and obviously) because it would still be the Trump hotel, associated with him and his brand.

The judges called the issue “attenuated”, but were not ignorant of or claiming ignorance of any particular migration of events from embassies to the hotel, if indeed such a quantifiable migration took place. Her anecdote essentially gainsaid the decision. She intended and delivered the remarks to convey that this is something anyone can see is true but, based on mere technicality, can’t prove in court.

The attorneys for D.C. and Maryland issued a statement on Wednesday saying the court “got it wrong.”

“Although the court described a litany of ways in which this case is unique, it failed to acknowledge the most extraordinary circumstance of all: President Trump is brazenly profiting from the Office of the President in ways that no other President in history ever imagined and that the founders expressly sought—in the Constitution—to prohibit,” they said. It was essentially the exact same argument that Andrea Mitchell restated as an anecdote from a long-time observer.

Among the other implications of the decision, it should be noted that the ruling brings to a halt many subpoenas that were out there for Trump financial records. It is likely, however, not the end of challenges to President Trump’s financial interests, or how they may violate the clause.

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