Rule of Law

Trump Gets Green Light To Appeal Dems’ Emoluments Suit

A D.C. federal judge on Wednesday permitted President Donald Trump to appeal two key opinions in a suit brought by congressional Democrats accusing him of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by profiting from his private businesses while in office, staying proceedings pending the appeal.

Trump is challenging a September 2018 decision that held more than 200 Democrats had standing to bring their allegations that the president violated the Foreign Emoluments Clause. In that ruling, U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan found that their allegations amount to more than “a political dispute between the elected branches of government.”

He’s also disputing an April decision finding that the Democrats have a right to seek to enjoin Trump from allegedly violating the clause. The president had said complying with such an injunction would be an unconstitutional burden, but Judge Sullivan disagreed.

Judge Sullivan previously denied the president’s request for an interlocutory appeal in the case in a June opinion. His change of heart Wednesday follows a July 19 order from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which denied the president’s petition for mandamus but urged Judge Sullivan to reconsider the president’s request for an appeal.

“This court is persuaded that the plaintiffs’ proposals to forgo discovery and/or engage in expedited summary judgment briefing would be inconsistent with the remand order from the D.C. circuit,” Judge Sullivan said in his order certifying dismissal orders for immediate appeal and staying proceedings in the case pending the appeal.

Counsel for the parties didn’t immediately return requests for comment late Wednesday, and Trump hadn’t yet issued a statement on the matter.

Democrats have clashed with Trump over transparency and potential conflicts of interest since they took control of the House last year. In July, the Fourth Circuit tossed a similar emoluments case over Trump’s ownership interest in the Trump International Hotel, finding Maryland and D.C.’s allegations of harm to them and their residents from the president’s alleged violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clauses are too remote or generalized to give them standing.

In the present suit, the Democrats claim Trump has defied the Constitution’s anti-corruption provision by accepting financial benefits from foreign governments. In particular, they point to his luxury D.C. hotel, which has generated money by hosting events for foreign leaders.

Per the foreign emoluments clause, anyone “holding any office of profit or trust” is prohibited from accepting titles, emoluments or offices from any foreign state or monarch unless Congress gives explicit approval. The domestic emoluments clause prevents presidents from receiving emolument from the U.S. beyond a standard salary.

In July, the U.S. Department of Justice urged the D.C. Circuit to block the suit, saying the case “rests on a host of novel and flawed constitutional premises.” The DOJ argued that the court should halt or at least pause the case while it considers the request.

The D.C. Circuit ultimately found that Trump hadn’t “shown a clear and indisputable right to dismissal of the complaint.” However, it remanded the matter for “immediate reconsideration” of Trump’s motion to certify and motion to stay the proceedings, noting that the district court didn’t adequately address whether resolving the legal questions would be preferable, “given the separation of powers issues present.”

Following that order, Judge Sullivan temporarily stayed discovery and expedited supplemental briefing limited to the appeal bid, according to the docket report.

In light of the D.C. Circuit’s position, that the dismissal orders “squarely meet the criteria for certification,” Judge Sullivan now finds certification appropriate, he said Wednesday.

“Accordingly, the court will certify the dismissal orders for immediate appeal,” Judge Sullivan said.

The lawmakers are represented by Brianne J. Gorod, Elizabeth B. Wydra and Brian R. Frazelle of the Constitutional Accountability Center.

Trump is represented by Jean Lin, James R. Powers and Bradley P. Humphreys of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Division.

The case is Blumenthal et al. v. Trump, case number 1:17-cv-01154, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.