Trump's lawyers are using the government shutdown to delay emoluments lawsuit

The president is trying to protect himself against charges that he using his office to personally profit

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 27, 2018 10:22AM (EST)

 (AP/Evan Vucci/Getty/MicroStockHub/Salon)
(AP/Evan Vucci/Getty/MicroStockHub/Salon)

President Donald Trump's lawyers want a delay in a case about his potential violation of the emoluments clause because of the government shutdown that the president himself wanted.

Attorneys from the Justice Department representing the president asked the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday to indefinitely delay future filings regarding an appeal on a lawsuit brought by the governments of Maryland and Washington, D.C. against Trump's alleged violations of a constitutional ban on foreign emoluments, according to Politico.

"The Department does not know when funding will be restored by Congress. Absent an appropriation, Department of Justice attorneys and employees are prohibited from working, even on a voluntary basis, except in very limited circumstances, including ‘emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property’. … Undersigned counsel for the Department of Justice therefore requests a stay of briefing on the President’s mandamus petition until Congress has restored appropriations to the Department," the Justice Department lawyers wrote.

The underlying issue here involves the president's willingness to accept money from foreign governments through his hotel empire. Although this would not pose a conflict of interest if Trump had fully divested himself from his business empire, he has not done so, and as a result there are concerns that the president could be unduly influenced by foreign governments which effectively give him money through his businesses.

Indeed, although Trump has insisted that he isn't involved in his business empire, his son Eric Trump (who is partially responsible for managing Trump's businesses in his absence) accidentally admitted last year that the president still discusses "the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that" with them on a basis that is "probably quarterly."

Prior to this delay, it looked like the lawsuit against Trump for violating the emolument clause was going ahead full-steam, marking the first time in American history that an emoluments case had been brought to trial. As NPR reported earlier this month:

The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia are preparing to move forward with subpoenas for President Trump's businesses in their lawsuit alleging he is in violation of the U.S. Constitution's emoluments clauses.

U.S. District Court Judge Peter J. Messitte gave the order for discovery in the case to proceed to D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, who have accused Trump of illegally profiting off the presidency. The list of subpoena targets will be released on Tuesday.

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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