Trump Tries To Block Discovery In Emoluments Case

WASHINGTON, DC  - JULY 26: The main entrance drive way for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., July 26, 2018. (Astrid Riecken For The Washington Post)
The Washington Post/The Washington Post

The Justice Department is trying to prevent state attorneys general from beginning the discovery process against President Donald Trump in one of the pending emoluments lawsuits against him.

In a late Nov. 30 filing in the case, DOJ attorneys told a federal court in Maryland that discovery in the case should not proceed until appeals in the case can be heard.

U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte had previously declined Trump’s request to dismiss the case and had declined to allow Trump to appeal that decision immediately. The Justice Department indicated in the filing that the solicitor general is planning to appeal both decisions to the 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, and to seek a stay of proceedings in the lower court.

“Accordingly, the President does not believe that discovery should commence now but should await the Court of Appeals’ resolutions of the mandamus petition and stay application,” the feds wrote in the filing. “If this Court nevertheless finds that discovery should proceed now, then the President does not object to the discovery schedule proposed by Plaintiff.”

The state attorneys general for Maryland and the District of Columbia sued Trump in June for allegedly violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, arguing that by allowing his Pennsylvania Avenue hotel to receive visits from foreign officials and by having federal officials maintain financial relationships with foreign states, Trump violates the compact between the states and the federal government.

The state attorneys general have indicated that discovery in the case would likely consist of six months of interviews with potential witnesses, as well as obtaining records and information on how DC’s Trump International Hotel has helped Trump financially as president.

The state attorneys general cited a separate case over the government’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census in an attempt to head off Trump’s appeal and have the judge allow discovery to begin before the appeal court can weigh in.

In that case, discovery continued in spite of a pending appeal before the Supreme Court.

“If the Supreme Court’s grant of certiorari is not a sufficient basis on which to stay active litigation, then surely Defendant’s suggestion that he might file a mandamus petition is no reason to stay discovery, particularly when discovery will be primarily focused on third parties,” the state attorneys general wrote.

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