Constitutional Law

Judge refuses to delay Democrats' suit accusing Trump of violating the emoluments clause

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President Donald Trump/

A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has refused to delay a lawsuit filed by nearly 200 congressional Democrats that accuses President Donald Trump of violating the emoluments clause.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan refused Tuesday to delay the suit while the Justice Department appeals his rulings, report the New York Times, Courthouse News Service, the Wall Street Journal, the Connecticut Post and the Washington Post. Sullivan also refused the government’s request that he certify an immediate, interim appeal.

The suit contends Trump’s businesses violate the emoluments clause by accepting payments for hotel rooms and licensing fees for his show, The Apprentice, from foreign governments.

The emoluments clause states that, absent congressional consent, no one holding any office of profit or trust shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.”

The government contends the clause bars only payments received in a president’s official capacity. Sullivan disagreed in an April 30 decision. He also ruled last September that the Democrats have standing to sue.

The government had argued a direct appeal of Sullivan’s rulings was justified by “exceptional circumstances”—the litigation could distract the president from his duties.

In refusing to certify an interlocutory appeal, Sullivan said the government had to meet a high standard designed to prevent piecemeal reviews of rulings before the conclusion of litigation.

Sullivan said the burden of discovery wasn’t demanding, and the entire litigation could be resolved quickly with decisions on motions for summary judgment.

“This case will be poised for resolution within six months; an immediate appeal would hardly materially advance its ultimate termination,” Sullivan wrote.

A Justice Department spokesperson released this statement: “This case should have been dismissed. It presents important questions that warrant immediate appellate review and is another impractical attempt to disrupt and distract the president from his official duties.”

The case is Blumenthal v. Trump. U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), the lead plaintiff, said in a tweet that the decision is a “historic triumph for legally mandated transparency.”

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