By Mark F. Gray, AFRO Staff Writer, mgray@afro.com

President Donald J. Trump’s apparent defiance to operate his personal business while in office received another favorable decision, as three judges were reluctant to rule that he is profiting from representatives of foreign governments that continue to patronize his luxury hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.

The judges, all appointed by Republican presidents to the U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, wouldn’t rule that the case violates the emoluments clauses of the Constitution that were written to inhibit the influence of government officials by foreign interests.  In the latest legal proceedings, the attorney generals of D.C. and Maryland, presented oral arguments over the legality of the President’s reluctance to put his interest in the Trump International Hotel into a form of trust, which has been standard operating procedure for other previous heads of state.

“Trump is acting as though the President is above the constitution,” D.C. based attorney Julius Terrell tells the AFRO.  “The rules of law don’t apply to him.”

However, the 4th District doesn’t agree. The questioning of the plaintiff’s lawsuit that was filed in June 2017 claims President Trump is privately benefitting from the profits of the Trump Hotel, where foreign dignitaries and business executives may be transacting business while lodging there.  It also stipulates that the Hotel is hurting business in that area.

“We have a president who has a massive empire of international business that is soliciting business through his hotel,” argued Loren L. AliKhan, solicitor general for Washington D.C.

According to Courthouse News, Senior U.S. District Judge Dennis Shedd scrutinized two parts of the Constitution and how the text is meant to be interpreted.  Shedd, a George W. Bush appointee, cited the clause that denies the President ability to accept gifts from foreign interests in exchange for personal gain.  The other challenge was to the clause that says a current President can’t accept any gifts from any U.S. state or its representatives.

“Any person who has a business that they have grown, they have an emoluments problem if they are fortunate to be President,” Shedd admonished.  “A career politician who can put all his stocks and bonds into a blind trust won’t have that problem.”

However, President Trump has refused to do that.  At the core of the people’s argument is the question of what immunity the Office of the President should be allowed compared to regular citizens.  Most legal experts agree there may not be a need for this litigation if Trump put his personal business into a blind trust that could’ve been overseen by one of his children or an attorney.  It may have saved what appears to be a multi-million dollar case that appears to be headed to the Supreme Court.

“The primary question here is what gifts are considered permissible when the President is doing business with foreign governments,” Terrell adds.  “It’s an open issue that will have to probably go before the Supreme Court.”

Nonetheless, the judges don’t seem to believe there is any impropriety with Trump’s refusal to comply with how his predecessors handled their personal business interests while in office, and it appears to have weakened the plaintiffs’ argument.

“Even if he divested, there would still be the Trump hotel as a competitor to local businesses,” said U.S. Circuit Judge Paul V. Niemeyer, a Reagan appointee.  “It’s still a competitor and would probably still impact the competitive interest they are claiming.”

The hearing follows U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte’s 2018 ruling that Maryland and Washington, D.C., have standing to bring the challenge over the Trump International Hotel.  The Fourth Circuit panel did not indicate when they will issue a ruling in the case.