DOJ asks appeals court to block Democrats' Emoluments Clause lawsuit against Trump

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday asked a federal appeals court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Democratic lawmakers alleging President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE has violated the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

In a filing to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Department attorneys asked the higher court to either dismiss the lawsuit or review a district judge’s rulings allowing the lawsuit to advance. They also asked that the appeals court halt lower court proceedings in the lawsuit while it considers this latest request.

District Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled last month that the lawsuit can advance, rejecting the administration’s request that he allow the appeals court to review his prior orders in favor of the lawsuit.

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Monday’s filing argues that the Democrats’ lawsuit “rests on a host of novel and flawed constitutional premises” and that it would “entail intrusive discovery into the President’s personal financial affairs on account of his federal office.”

“Despite this remarkable complaint, the district court treated this case as a run-of-the-mill commercial dispute,” the DOJ stated.

The government attorneys further claimed that, by allowing the lawsuit to move forward, “the court ignored the unique separation-of-powers concerns posed by discovery in a case against the President in his official capacity.”

The Democrats suing Trump have argued that discovery in the case would center around his private businesses, and wouldn’t interfere with the president’s ability to carry out his duties — an argument Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, sided with in his order last month.

Sullivan wrote at the time that “the President has failed to meet his burden of establishing ‘that an immediate appeal from the order may materially advance the ultimate termination of the litigation.’ ”

Trump has frequently sought to stop lawmakers and others from obtaining documents pertaining to his personal finances. He has twice sued, in his personal capacity, House Democrats to try to block congressional subpoenas for his records from private financial institutions.

A pair of district judges have ruled in favor of lawmakers so far, and the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments on Friday in an appeal of a subpoena to the accounting firm Mazars.

The DOJ’s filing to the appeals court on Monday reiterates the lawyers’ past arguments that the lawmakers don’t have the authority to sue the president.

Sullivan has previously ruled that members of Congress could sue over Trump’s alleged violation of the Emoluments Clause.

He wrote in a ruling earlier this year that the lawmakers are alleging ”that they have been deprived of the right to vote to consent to the President’s receipt of foreign Emoluments before he accepts them.”

The Democrats claim that Trump is continuing to profit from his private businesses’ operations in foreign countries while he is in office, in violation of the Constitution, which states that Congress must vote on whether a president can accept gifts from foreign governments.

The DOJ has pushed back, arguing that the president hasn’t violated the Constitution. They say the courts should side with their interpretation of the clause, which they argue doesn’t apply to commercial transactions.