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DOJ Steps in to Try to Stop Emoluments Lawsuit Against Trump
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15 May 2019 02:20 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Emmet Sullivan (Image source: Public domain)



The Department of Justice is stepping in to represent Donald Trump in a court case between him and congressional Democrats. They are representing him because he is being sued in his official capacity as president and not as an individual. This is just one of the two cases against him with regard to the emoluments clause in the Constitution.  

Last month U.S. District Court Judge for District of Columbia Emmet Sullivan refused to grant the request from Trump's legal team to dismiss the case and disagreed with their definition of emoluments.


Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) led more than 200 Democratic legislators in filing this lawsuit believing that Trump's private business is violating the emoluments clause that bars gifts and payments from foreign governments with regard to the D.C. location of Trump International Hotel as well as his other businesses. It's also yet another lawsuit looking to grab his financial records. 

The DOJ attorneys filed paperwork on Tuesday asking Sullivan to allow a higher court to review his ruling. They argue that there is enough "difference of opinion" on the legal questions that were introduced with this lawsuit, including the definition of the emoluments clause.


They argue and the president can't violate the emoluments clause with any commercial profits and can only do so if he receives gifts or directly profits from an action he performs as president on behalf of foreign officials.  

Additionally, it was requested in the filing that an appeals court review Sullivan's ruling because of "exceptional circumstances" before the case moves forward in district court. The judge was initially appointed to his position during former President Bill Clinton's tenure.


"Despite the 150-year unbroken history of federal courts refraining from enjoining a sitting president in the performance of his official duties, this Court determined that it has the power to do so," the DOJ attorneys wrote. 

It's also argued that an appeals court could either narrow the scope of the Democrats' lawsuit significantly, or it could rule that the plaintiffs don't have standing to file such a lawsuit and halt the case permanently.


The attorneys wrote that Sullivan's ruling a few weeks ago "broadly interpreted the Foreign Emoluments Clause in a manner that calls into doubt the constitutionality of conduct of public officials — from President George Washington to President Barack Obama — that has been accepted throughout history." 

The DOJ is requesting that Sullivan temporarily stop the lawsuit from going any further while he considers the DOJ's motion and continues the stay if a higher court agrees to their appeal.


"This case presents the unprecedented circumstance of impending civil discovery against the sitting president of the United States concerning his compliance with a constitutional provision in his official capacity," states the filing.  

"Any discovery would necessarily be a distraction to the president's performance of his constitutional duties."


If Sullivan grants the DOJ's motion, the case will likely move on to the D.C. Circuit to consider the appeal. 

There is an additional emoluments clause lawsuit being brought against Trump by the attorneys general of Washington D.C. and Maryland.

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