Washington – A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a request from President Donald Trump to delay a lawsuit filed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal and nearly 200 other congressional Democrats who allege the president’s business dealings violate an anti-corruption statute of the U.S. Constitution.
U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan declined to put the case on hold and said the Democratic plaintiffs could begin to seek financial information, interviews and other records from the Trump Organization this week.
Justice Department lawyers had asked Sullivan to take the unusual step of halting proceedings in the case to allow them to appeal the judge’s previous rulings to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The DOJ lawyers argued an interlocutory appeal was in order because of the “exceptional circumstances” of the case, known as Blumenthal v. Trump. They said the discovery process, which would gather information about Trump’s personal and business finances would “distract the president from his official duties.”
Justice Department lawyers also argued that if the higher court found that members of Congress did not have the authority to sue the president, the lawsuit could be dismissed.
Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, disagreed.
“This case will be poised for resolution within six months; an immediate appeal would hardly materially advance its ultimate termination,” Sullivan wrote in a 12-page ruling.
The case is based on the U.S. Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, which bars a president from taking payments from foreign states unless he or she receives approval from Congress.
The lawsuit accuses Trump of violating the clause because his businesses, including his hotel in downtown Washington D.C., have hosted foreign embassy events and visiting foreign officials.
The Justice Department had no immediate response to Sullivan’s ruling.
Blumenthal called Sullivan’s decision “a victory for the Constitution,” and a “historic triumph for legally mandated transparency.”
“In a thoughtful, well-reasoned opinion, Judge Sullivan articulated what the law makes clear — there is absolutely no reason to delay one more day in ensuring that President Trump is held accountable for his violation of the Constitution’s preeminent anti-corruption provision,” Blumenthal said.
The senator also said “for more than two years, President Trump has thumbed his nose at the American people in flagrant violation of the law. Today, the courts spoke: no longer.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also hailed Sullivan’s decision.
“No one is above the law – not even the president,” Pelosi said.”Once again, the courts have resoundingly reaffirmed our efforts to hold the President accountable for corruption, and ensure that the president acts in the public interest, not his own interest.
Blumenthal, and the other lawmakers suing Trump, are represented in this case by the Constitutional Accountability Center.
“We’re gratified that Judge Sullivan has rejected President Trump’s effort to run out the clock on this important lawsuit,” said Constitutional Accountability Center Chief Counsel Brianne Gorod.
The lawsuit against Trump gives several examples of former presidents who obeyed the rules of the emoluments clause, including Martin Van Buren, who in 1840 was offered two horses, a case of rose oil, five bottles of rose water, a package of cashmere shawls, a Persian rug, a box of pearls, and a sword by the Imam of Muscat.
The suit said that that Van Buren, writing to the Imam, explained that “a fundamental law of the Republic which forbids its servants from accepting presents from foreign States or Princes, precludes me from receiving” the items and that Van Buren then told Congress about the gift.