Appeals court rejects Trump administration's request to dismiss Democrats' emoluments lawsuit

A federal appeals court rejected a Department of Justice (DOJ) request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by Democratic lawmakers accusing President TrumpDonald John TrumpFive landmark moments of testimony to Congress Lindsey Graham basks in the impeachment spotlight Democrats sharpen their message on impeachment MORE of violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause.

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled the administration did not show “a clear and indisputable right to dismissal of the complaint,” but did open the door to allow the DOJ to make a request for appeal again.

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The panel said District Judge Emmet Sullivan was wrong in denying a previous motion to allow the appeals court to review his prior rulings, saying that the lawsuit can advance and told the judge to reconsider.

“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 circuit court wrote in its ruling. 

Following the ruling, Sullivan declared he was halting discovery in the lawsuit, barring further collection of information for the case while he reconsiders whether to allow the appeals court to review his past rulings. 

The DOJ first asked the appeals court to dismiss the lawsuit earlier this month, saying Democrats’ claims rest “on a host of novel and flawed constitutional premises” that would “entail intrusive discovery into the President’s personal financial affairs on account of his federal office.” The administration also maintains that the lawmakers don’t have the authority to sue the president.

Democrats claim that the lawsuit, which focuses on allegations that the president continues to profit from his private businesses’ operations in foreign countries while he is in office, would not interfere with the president’s ability to carry out his duties.

The president has come out swinging during his tenure against efforts by lawmakers and others to obtain information regarding his personal businesses and finances, twice suing, in his personal capacity, House Democrats to try to block congressional subpoenas for his records from private financial institutions. 

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handed the president a win earlier this month in a different emoluments case filed by Maryland and the District of Columbia, ruling that they did not have the standing to sue the president.

Judge Paul Niemeyer ruled that claims that government officials are staying at Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel to benefit the president and not because of other factors “requires speculation” and are “simply too attenuated.” 

Jacqueline Thomsen contributed.