Lawyers for more than 200 Democratic members of Congress indicated in a press release today that they had served 37 subpoenas to President Trump’s businesses. The subpoenas concern a lawsuit the 200+ Democrats brought against Trump alleging violations of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. Significantly, only hours before it was reported that these subpoenas had been served, it was reported that the Justice Department on Trump’s behalf had requested that a federal appeals court stop the lawsuit in question from proceeding; similar efforts to stop the lawsuit at the district court level, where D.C. District Judge Emmet Sullivan presides over the case, have been unsuccessful for Trump.
The suit alleges that Trump has continued to profit while in office from foreign governments spending at his business, including large numbers of foreign officials staying at Trump’s hotels and resorts. Trump created this problem for himself by failing to divest from his business interests when taking office, a marked departure from what previous presidents have done. Donald Trump has his two older sons taking care of the day to day functions of his businesses, but he retains ownership of those businesses and can take money from them whenever he likes – he continues to profit from their profits. The specter of foreign interests expecting something in return for their spending at Trump’s businesses is exactly the sort of influence and potential conflict of interest the Emoluments Clause seeks to avoid. According to The Hill:
Lawyers for more than 200 Democratic members of Congress have served subpoenas to President Trump’s businesses as part of their lawsuit alleging Trump is violating the Emoluments Clause. The Democrats said in a press release that they have issued 37 judicial subpoenas to Trump’s private businesses, including the Trump Organization, seeking information on payments from foreign governments. …The group of more than 200 Democratic lawmakers first filed the lawsuit more than two years ago, alleging that Trump was violating the Emoluments Clause by continuing to profit from foreign governments while in office. The Constitution states that Congress must vote on any gifts a president receives from foreign officials. …D.C. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, a Clinton appointee, has sided with the Democrats so far in ruling that the lawsuit can advance. But lawyers for the DOJ filed a motion with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier Monday, asking the higher court to block the lawsuit from advancing and potentially dismiss it altogether.
On the subject of the 37 subpoenas, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said in a statement, according to The Hill, that the plaintiff lawmakers “are seeking a targeted set of documents to obtain the information that we need to ensure that the President can no longer shirk his constitutional responsibility”, while also indicating his belief that the press had already shown that Trump was violating the Emoluments Clause, but that the lawsuit was necessary to prove the extent of the violations, indicating his hope that the appeals court would also allow the suit to continue, saying “Thanks to the good work of the press, we already know of foreign emoluments that President Trump has and is receiving — we simply don’t yet know the full scope of his lawbreaking. 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.”