Rule of Law

Federal Judge Puts Temporary Hold on Subpoenas of Trump’s Business Records

A federal judge on Friday put a temporary halt on subpoenas from congressional Democrats for President Donald Trump’s tax records after an appeals court ordered the judge to take a second look at the issue.

The D.C. Circuit involved itself Friday in a fight to determine if President Trump’s business violates the U.S. Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause that forbids federal officials from accepting money or gifts from foreign governments.

The appellate court panel remanded the case to U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, saying he needed to look closer at the underlying law.

“The district court did not adequately address whether— given the separation of powers issues present in a lawsuit brought by members of the Legislative Branch against the President of the United States—resolving the legal questions and/or postponing discovery would be preferable, or whether discovery is even necessary (or more limited discovery would suffice) to establish whether there is an entitlement to declaratory and injunctive relief of the type sought by plaintiffs,” the ruling said.

After previously approving of the subpoenas, Sullivan promptly ordered a temporary halt to them shortly after the ruling of the appeals court. President Trump appealed to the appellate court to block 37 subpoenas covering his financial records.

In its ruling, the D.C. Circuit panel consisting of Circuit Judges Patricia Millett, Cornelia Pillard and Robert Wilkins, all Obama nominees, said the district court “abused its discretion by concluding that an immediate appeal would not advance the ultimate termination of the litigation just because discovery and summary judgment briefing could proceed expeditiously.”

The lawsuit was filed by almost 200 congressional Democrats, including New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, chair of the House Judiciary Committee. The complaint alleges that Trump accepted gifts from foreign governments without the approval of Congress.

Elizabeth Wydra, attorney for the Democrats, said in a statement that the appeals court decision was understandable and should be addressed quickly by the district court.

“The courts should not allow the president to run out the clock and evade accountability to his oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution— which includes the Foreign Emoluments Clause,” Wydra said.