Judge Rejects Discovery Delay in Congress’ Emoluments Suit Against Trump

The Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower (third from left) is seen in this July 4, 2011, photo in Panama City. (Arnulfo Franco / AP)

(CN) – More than 200 Congress members received approval to start investigating President Donald Trump’s personal financial dealings with foreign governments on Tuesday, as a federal judge ruled out further delay in litigation involving the Constitution’s anti-corruption clauses.

“This tremendous victory assures that President Trump will be held accountable to the Constitution and the American people – a historic triumph for legally mandated transparency,” Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat from Connecticut, said in a statement.

“For more than two years, President Trump has thumbed his nose at the American people in flagrant violation of the law,” Blumenthal added. “Today, the courts spoke: No longer.”

The ruling marks a turning point in sprawling litigation against Trump under the Emoluments Clause, barring public officials from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”

Trump’s international business empire brought this once-obscure and rarely enforced passage of the Constitution to public debate even before his inauguration. Good-government groups and legislators sued the president in New York and Washington shortly after he took office, but litigation stalled over questions over how the Emoluments Clause could be enforced.

Now, at least in Washington, that litigation returned to the fast-track.

This past September, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan gave the congressional legislators the green light to pursue their lawsuit. Trump’s attorneys sought an immediate appeal of that ruling, citing “exceptional circumstances.”

Rejecting that argument Tuesday, Sullivan found that the case’s brisk schedule meant that the government could hold that appeal until after the case is resolved.

Trump and the Congress members are expected to fully brief the case within six months.

“Once the cross-motions are ripe, the court will be able to resolve them expeditiously thereby terminating the case,” Sullivan wrote in a 12-page ruling.

House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler hailed the decision as a “great victory in our fight for transparency and accountability for the American people.”

“The Constitution is clear: The President must obtain Congress’s consent before receiving foreign benefits,” Nadler said. “Yet again, the courts have ruled in our favor as we seek to uphold the Constitution and prove that no one is above the law.”

Back in Nadler’s home state of New York, the Second Circuit still has not ruled whether it will revive a separate Emoluments Clause lawsuit filed by the Washington-based anti-corruption watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics.

In late 2017, U.S. District Judge George Daniels suggested in dismissing the case that enforcement of the Emoluments Clause was not for the judiciary but for Congress.

The Second Circuit appeared skeptical about that ruling late last year, with one judge noting private businesses claim to have been harmed by having to compete with a U.S. president.

“The Trump restaurants and hotels are offering something that nobody else can offer,” U.S. Circuit Judge Pierre Leval said in October, identifying this as the ability to “line the pockets of the president.”

The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

 

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