A federal appeals court on Tuesday revived a major threat that President Donald Trump has faced in court since the early days of his presidency — the question of whether he can be sued over his business portfolio, which could give his opponents access to his private business records.
The cases related to emoluments have been paused before subpoenas of the Trump Organization were due, and a three-judge panel had dismissed a lawsuit from the District of Columbia and Maryland state attorneys general over unfair competition with the Trump International Hotel.
On Tuesday, the full 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals voted to rehear the case, with potentially 15 judges or more, on December 12 in Richmond, Virginia.
The District of Columbia and Maryland had previously claimed the Trump International Hotel in Washington harmed hotels and other businesses the states partially own. Trump’s win in July killed the lawsuit before the states’ attorneys general offices could gather financial information from the Trump Organization and Trump himself.
Trump had applauded his legal victory on Twitter, writing, “I won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat induced Witch Hunt.” He noted the appeals court’s 3-0 decision was unanimous. When the case was argued before those three appellate judges, they were notably sympathetic to Trump. But the Circuit’s full panel may not be more evenly split politically. They will examine whether the previous courts reasoned correctly.
It’s uncommon for a rehearing such as this in any appeals courts, though the emoluments issue is a highly unusual case, in that the legal issues involved have almost never been interpreted by the courts.
“A majority of judges in regular active service and not disqualified having voted in a requested poll of the court to grant the petition for rehearing en banc. It is ordered that rehearing en banc is granted,” the court wrote Tuesday.
DC Attorney General Karl Racine and Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh called the lawsuit’s revival “significant” on Tuesday.
“We look forward to arguing our case before the full panel to stop President Trump from violating the Constitution and profiting from the presidency,” the pair said in a statement.
Two other cases testing Trump’s compliance with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, in New York and in Washington, DC, are still slowly moving through the courts.