Justice Department attorneys want to give one of the myriad lawsuits accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause a quick death.
In a court filing late Monday, DOJ attorneys sought permission to appeal immediately a September ruling that found nearly 200 members of Congress do have standing to sue Trump for violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
Government attorneys argue that allowing the appeal would “materially advance the termination of this litigation.”
“If the D.C. Circuit decides the issue in the President’s favor, this case would be dismissed, thereby avoiding the need to address Plaintiffs’ novel Foreign Emoluments Clause claim and preserving both the Court’s and the parties’ resources,” attorneys from the Justice Department’s civil division write in the filing.
U.S. District Judge Emmett Sullivan of Washington, D.C., ruled in late September that members of Congress have standing to sue Trump over the alleged emoluments violation. The members argue in their lawsuit that Trump’s receipt of gifts – through his self-branded hotel chain, foreign intellectual property rights, and The Apprentice TV licensing fees – constitute foreign governmental gifts that should be subject to congressional approval under the Constitution.
Andy Grewal, a law professor at the University of Iowa, said that “judges grant these types of requests if they can in fact speed up the end of the litigation.”
“The idea is that if you resolve this one issue, this will end quickly,” he said. “And that’s a reason to grant the request.”
Sullivan’s September ruling only rejected half of an attempt by the Trump Administration to quash the lawsuit. The judge did not rule on the other half – on whether Trump-owned companies taking money from foreign governments counts as an emolument.
Regardless, the government slammed Sullivan’s ruling as “in substantial tension” with legal precedent.
“Congress can still vote on whether to consent or to withhold consent to the President’s alleged acceptance of foreign emoluments,” government attorneys argue. “If the President’s past alleged violations cannot be adequately remedied by congressional action now, it is not clear how this Court would be in a better position to provide a remedy.”
Since Sullivan’s ruling only concerned standing and came at an early stage in the court case, the government needs permission to file an immediate appeal.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and then-Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI) filed the lawsuit in June 2017, along with 194 other Democratic members of Congress.
The suit alleges that foreign governments have used Trump’s businesses to exercise influence on the executive branch. It specifically cites instances like the granting of foreign patents to Trump-owned businesses and foreign diplomats renting Trump hotel rooms en masse as examples of emoluments that were accepted without congressional approval.
“Because [Trump] has failed to come to Congress and seek its consent for at least some foreign emoluments that have been the subject of public reporting, it is impossible to know whether Defendant has also accepted, or plans to accept, other foreign emoluments that have not yet been made public,” the members alleged in the lawsuit, adding that Trump’s acceptance of the gifts had “thwarted the transparency that the ‘Consent of Congress’ provision was designed to provide.”
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