Appeals court backs Trump in hotel profits lawsuit
President Donald Trump (Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Patrick Kelley.)

A US appeals court quashed a lawsuit on Wednesday that accused President Donald Trump of profiting illegally from his Washington hotel, handing the White House a key win in a potentially damaging case.

Three judges in the Richmond, Virgina federal appeals court ruled unanimously that the governments of Maryland and Washington DC did not have standing to file the suit, which accused Trump of violating a constitutional ban on profiting from public office.

The suit had taken aim at the Trump International Hotel, just four blocks away from the White House, which has become popular with foreign dignitaries and businessmen seeking to gain favor with the Trump administration.

But the judges questioned the real interest of Maryland and Washington in filing the suit, saying it was an "inappropriate use of the courts."

Trump declared victory on Twitter.

"Word just out that I won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat-induced Witch Hunt. Unanimous decision in my favor from The United States Court of Appeals For The Fourth Circuit on the ridiculous Emoluments Case," he wrote.

"I don't make money, but lose a fortune for the honor of serving and doing a great job as your President (including accepting Zero salary!)."

Trump's 2016 election victory made the five-star hotel a hub for Washington politics, with various governments and embassies hosting receptions.

The Washington Post reported that the Saudi government spent more than $270,000 there while Kuwait's embassy has used the hotel for its lavish annual national day party since Trump came to power.

And T-Mobile executives spent nearly $200,000 there, according to Vox magazine, after the company announced a merger with rival Sprint and faced an antitrust review by the government.

Trump's annual financial report in May showed that the hotel brought in $40.8 million in revenue in 2018, nearly 10 percent of his total income.

Washington and Maryland sued in 2017, alleging Trump was violating the constitution's emoluments clause prohibiting government officials from receiving gifts, payments or other valuable benefits from foreign governments and officials.

They charge that the hotel and its restaurants have unfairly siphoned off business from Washington and Maryland convention centers. But the judges said neither plantiff could demonstrate real losses.

They also said it was only "speculation" that those patronizing Trump International Hotel sought favor with the president.