The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals froze a lawsuit accusing Trump of violating the constitution’s emoluments clause, after DOJ attorneys asked for a halt to their appeal, saying that the ongoing government shutdown will prevent them from doing their work.
“The Department does not know when funding will be restored by Congress,” DOJ attorneys representing Trump in the case wrote in a Wednesday filing. The appeals court approved the request the same day.
“The briefing schedule is suspended pending further order of the court,” the order reads.
Trump filed the appeal on Dec. 17, asking to freeze a district-level lawsuit from the Maryland and D.C. attorneys general accusing him of illegally taking foreign government cash through his Washington hotel.
The DOJ’s request in the emoluments case came as part of a larger flurry of delay requests the government filed this week, citing the shutdown. In cases that ranged from the various immigration-related lawsuits the administration is facing to the legal challenge far-right conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi brought against special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, the Justice Department has claimed the lack of funding for the department inhibits its lawyers’ ability to work on the litigation.
So far, the Justice Department has been only partially successful in convincing courts to halt their proceedings. While the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit agreed to pause the briefing schedule in the emoluments case, the federal judge presiding over a lawsuit in California challenging the Census citizenship question rejected the delay request without explanation Wednesday. That case goes to trial early next month.
The emoluments case is already frozen at the district level, after the appeals court last week approved Trump’s request to freeze the lower court proceedings until the appeal is resolved.
DOJ attorneys arguing for a freeze to the appeals-level case wrote that “absent an appropriation, Department of Justice attorneys and employees are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including ‘emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property.’”
The government also asks the court to delay briefing deadlines in the case at a time “commensurate with the duration of the lapse in appropriations.”
The DOJ’s brief in the appeal is not due until Jan. 22. DOJ attorneys wrote in their brief that the attorneys general for Maryland and DC did not take a position on the issue.