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DOJ Asks Appeals Court to Block Democrats from Subpoenaing Financial Records from Trump Organization
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9 Jul 2019 01:42 PM EST

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Trump Tower (Image source: Scott Edmunds via Wikimedia Commons)


Donald Trump, instead of just refusing to obey any subpoenas, is now fighting back in court. With his renewed fight to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, he is now fighting congressional Democrats as well to not have the financial records from the Trump Organization released.


A group of Democrats from both chambers in Congress issued subpoenas to the Trump Organization and other businesses of the president that are mixed up in a lawsuit that claims the president violated the emoluments clause in the U.S. Constitution.  

While previously subpoenas were coming from the House, this time they are originating from the Constitutional Accountability Center that represents a group of Democrats from both the House and Senate, led by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).


Nearly 40 subpoenas were issued that demanded a response by the end of the month. They're looking for evidence pertaining to Trump's financial records after a federal judge, Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court in Washington, ruled in June that Democrats could proceed with the legal discovery process in their lawsuit. 

The Justice Department, however, has asked an appeals court to block the Democrats from subpoenaing his financial records.


The Justice Department, in defense of the president, requested that the DC Circuit Court of Appeals overrule the lower court's June decision. If the lawsuit continues, the department wrote that Trump "is likely to suffer irreparable injury" on account of "intrusive discovery into this personal finances based on the public office he holds." 

The DOJ asked the appeals court to hear their case before Sullivan resolves the case. It's their belief that his interpretation was wrong that congressional power and the emoluments clause prohibits officials from receiving benefits from foreign powers.


This is after Sullivan had already informed the DOJ that it could not appeal his decision yet. However, the Justice Department wrote in their court filing, "If the district court's clearly erroneous orders are allowed to stand, this improper suit will proceed, and the members will commence discovery aimed at probing the president's personal financial affairs because he holds federal office," 

The Justice Department used this same tactic to appeal before a case is resolved in another emoluments case, one that was filed in federal court in Maryland. At this time there has not been a decision on the case.


Similar to other ongoing House investigations, this group of Democrats is seeking the Trump Organization's tax returns and financial information pertaining to his other business assets. Additionally, they want information on three New York Trump towers, The Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, a San Francisco building and Mar-a-Lago. 

Blumenthal explained the intention behind the subpoenas is to provide "information about foreign government payments accepted by six Trump properties, as well as trademarks granted by Trump businesses by foreign governments."


"Unsurprisingly, the Trump Administration is still seeking to delay, delay, delay, but we are confident that the D.C. Circuit will recognize the well-reasoned logic of the District Court and allow discovery to proceed," he added. 

This case has been in the courts since 2017, longer than the others that are seeking his tax returns and financial information, but the judge's decision to allow it to go forward gives the Democrats a new road for obtaining those records they've been seeking.


While it could take several months more for all these cases to move through the courts and be resolved, the Democrats are looking to provide oversight of the Trump administration. This could provide additional information that isn't contained in former special counsel Robert Mueller's report and could help support pursuing impeachment proceedings. 

Trump has continued to label the House and congressional efforts seeking his financial records and tax returns as "presidential harassment."


Yet, being allowed to continue in the case, the Democrats plan to go even further and seek depositions and documents related to how the Trump Organization may receive benefits from foreign governments through his intellectual property rights and other regulations and through payments to his hotel, golf, real estate, and licensing holdings. They may opt to pursue Trump's written answers to their questions as Mueller did. 

The other cases looking for financial information include the House Oversight Committee's subpoena of the accounting firm Mazars USA for eight years of financial papers and the House Intelligence and Financial Services committees requesting the president's financial records from Capital One bank and Deutsche Bank.

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