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 his family.
“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.”