WASHINGTON (CN) – Citing intrusive requests they say border on harassment of President Donald Trump, attorneys for the Justice Department asked the D.C. Circuit to throw out a lawsuit filed by Democratic lawmakers claiming the real estate mogul-turned-president violated the Constitution’s anti-corruption clauses.
Assistant Attorney General Joseph Hunt’s request for a mid-case appeal or outright dismissal of the case marks the administration’s latest volley in a long-running legal battle between the White House and roughly 200 House and Senate lawmakers seeking access to Trump’s private financial records and documents belonging to the Trump Organization.
The lawmakers, whose case is led by Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Representative Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., allege Trump has continued to earn profits from foreign governments since taking office.
The Constitution’s so-called emoluments clauses prohibit the president from receiving gifts from foreign or state governments or officials while in office without congressional consent. State visits and other activities that generate profit for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., could be a violation of those clauses.
Last month, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in D.C. rejected the Trump administration’s request to halt the Democrats’ lawsuit and instead ordered a three-month discovery period. He gave the both sides until Sept. 27 to complete the work.
In response, the Justice Department filed a 30-page petition late Monday in the D.C. Circuit, asking the federal appeals court to either toss the lawsuit or review Judge Sullivan’s ruling further while pausing the ongoing proceedings.
“If the members seek discovery against the president directly, that would inevitably ‘distract’ the president ‘from the energetic performance of [his] constitutional duties,’” the petition states. “The members’ plan to target third parties to discover the president’s personal financial information also poses severe separation of powers problems….. Whether intended or not, any information produced through discovery would undoubtedly be publicized and used to distract and harass the president.”
As the department filed its petition, Democrats wasted little time kicking off their discovery period. On Monday afternoon, Senator Blumenthal announced he was issuing 37 subpoenas seeking information from several Trump-owned businesses, including Trump’s hotels in Washington, D.C. and New York.
The subpoenas also target records related to Mar-a-Lago, the president’s club in Florida, and will also seek review of any foreign trademarks applications– including those that might be pending.
“Thanks to the good work of the press, we already know of foreign emoluments that President Trump has and is receiving – we simply don’t yet know the full scope of his lawbreaking,” Blumenthal said in a statement Monday afternoon.
For his part, Congressman Nadler said the decision to unleash the subpoenas marked an “important step” toward understanding the “full scope of Trump’s foreign business dealings.”
According to a June report by NBC, representatives of at least 22 foreign governments have poured money into Trump Organization businesses but the total amount spent at the president’s hotels, golf clubs and restaurants is still unclear.
Trump maintains the Trump Organization is run by his sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, but he has also refused to release his own tax returns, making it difficult to know whether the president has received foreign profits while in office.
On July 2, The House Ways and Means Committee sued the Treasury Department in federal court in Washington, D.C. arguing Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin violated federal tax code when he refused to respond to a congressional subpoena demanding six years of Trump’s personal and professional tax returns.
Neither the White House nor the Trump Organization immediately responded to request for comment Tuesday.