Efforts by congressional Democrats to subpoena President Donald Trump’s financial records are facing another legal setback after a federal appeals court sent the case back to a lower court.
Late last month, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan allowed
a lawsuit brought by 200 congressional Democrats to move forward in seeking
financial records of Trump’s businesses. The lawsuit alleges that Trump may be violating
the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution because his “sprawling empire of
hotels, golf courses and resorts is attracting business from foreign
governments which may be hoping to curry favor with the president,” according
to The Wall Street Journal.
But on Friday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that Judge Sullivan had insufficiently
considered legal questions regarding the separation of powers between the
president and Congress when ruling that the case could move forward.
Sullivan responded to the appeals court decision by temporarily
halting 37 subpoenas congressional Democrats had issued for Trump’s
financial records, including from Trump Tower and Mar-a-Lago, The Washington Post reported.
Per the Post:
The case will now return to Sullivan for “immediate reconsideration” of the president’s request for a midstream appeal before the lawsuit is resolved. The president’s attorneys had cited the “exceptional circumstances.” If Sullivan signs off on that request, the case would go back to the D.C. Circuit for oral argument.
While the move by the appeals court may be frustrating for
those who want to see Trump held accountable for what by all appearances seem
to be flagrant violations of the Emoluments Clause, it’s important to note that
the latest ruling is based on the fact that courts have never been tested by
such a case involving a sitting president. Nevertheless, Elizabeth Wydra, of
the Constitutional Accountability Center, told the Post that the courts should act quickly to resolve the legal
questions involving separation of powers.
Of three lawsuits addressing Trump’s possible Emoluments
Clause violations, at least one could end up before the Supreme Court, The New York Times noted.
Earlier this month, Trump garnered a legal victory in
another emoluments case when a federal appeals court dismissed
a lawsuit brought by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia.
That lawsuit claimed that local hotels and other businesses were suffering
because of the Trump International Hotel, which is owned by the president and
“Even if government officials were patronizing the hotel to
curry the president’s favor, there is no reason to conclude that they would
cease doing so were the president enjoined from receiving income from the
hotel,” the opinion by a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the
Fourth Circuit in Richmond, VA, stated, according to the Times. “The hotel would still be publicly associated with the
president, would still bear his name and would still financially benefit
members of his family.”
After that ruling, Trump claimed
on Twitter that he had “won a big part of the Deep State and Democrat
induced Witch Hunt.”