Judge halts Democrats’ subpoenas of Trump Org docs in emoluments case

Judge halts Democrats’ subpoenas of Trump Org docs in emoluments case
Copyright 2019 CNN
A federal judge has paused congressional Democrats' subpoenas of Trump Organization financial records.

A federal judge Friday paused congressional Democrats’ subpoenas of Trump Organization financial records, 10 days before the records were due in a lawsuit over whether President Donald Trump is violating the Constitution.

The delay is a win for Trump, even if temporary. He’s attempting — and so far has succeeded — to hold off multiple subpoenas from the Democrats that could divulge secrets about his company and assets.

Judge Emmet Sullivan made the decision Friday shortly after the appeals court above him said it wanted to hear the emoluments case. The case had been progressing, with the Democrats sending 37 subpoenas earlier this month seeking financial information about Mar-a-Lago, the Trump International Hotel, Trump Tower and other Trump properties. Those subpoenas had a due date of July 29.

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said Friday it should hear the case, about the emoluments clause of the Constitution, before the Democrats collect evidence. But the court isn’t ready to hear the case just yet. The panel of three judges directed the Justice Department and the lower court on Friday to take more legal steps, because of legal technicalities, before it will hear the case.

Sullivan should now consider whether the collection of evidence is even needed for the Democrats’ lawsuit, the appeals court order said.

The appeals court also indicated Friday it is interested in addressing legal questions about separation of powers quickly.

The Justice Department, in defending Trump, “has identified substantial questions,” the appeals court wrote Friday.

It’s the strongest sign yet that the emoluments fight may become one of the most important legal issues about presidential and congressional powers that courts may consider during Trump’s presidency. The issue, legal experts say, is likely to reach the Supreme Court. Few courts in American history have weighed in on how to read the emoluments clause, a section of the Constitution that says no person holding office can accept gifts from foreign states without the consent of Congress.

A different appeals court recently ruled in favor of Trump, effectively killing a separate emoluments challenge brought by the DC and Maryland attorneys general. DC and Maryland said they may appeal but haven’t done so yet.

In the DC-based case, congressional Democrats say they are deprived of voting on Trump’s personal revenues from foreign states, because they haven’t been able to review his financial portfolio.