Judge Emmet Sullivan, of the US District Court in Washington, denied an attempt by the Justice Department to stop the Democrats from collecting information from the Trump Organization and to appeal early court decisions in the lawsuit, which tests the constitutionality of Trump’s business holdings while he serves as President.
The case is one of several avenues Democrats have to get to Trump’s financial records.
Sullivan said the group of more than 200 members can begin collecting evidence June 28 through late September. Previously, the members of Congress said they plan to seek both documents and depositions from the Trump Organization.
But the Justice Department had hoped to take the case to an appeals court before the evidence collection began.
“This case will be poised for resolution within six months; an immediate appeal would hardly materially advance its ultimate termination,” Sullivan wrote on Tuesday.
This may not be the end of the fight for Trump’s records, however.
It’s not clear yet how the Justice Department will respond to Sullivan’s order Tuesday.
In a similar case over Trump’s business proceeds that had reached the evidence-collection phase, the Justice Department took an unusual step to get an appeals court to review the matter.
The appeals court has not yet made a decision in that case, which remains paused. The Justice Department has not taken a step yet to circumvent Sullivan’s order, but could, given the other case.
More than 200 Democratic senators and House members sued Trump in this case. They claim his refusal to present his business holdings to Congress for their approval deprived them of a vote, and his continued business holdings violate the constitutional anti-corruption section known as the Emoluments Clause, which says elected officials cannot collect proceeds from foreign powers.
Sullivan previously signed off on their lawsuit, saying they had the authority to challenge the President and that the legal definition of “emoluments” was broad.
“This extraordinary lawsuit has all the hallmarks of a case worthy of” early review by an appellate court, because it looked at an issue that’s never been fully weighed by the courts before, the Justice Department had argued.
But the members of Congress called the early appeal of an appeal a delay tactic built around Trump running for reelection.
“If the President succeeds in running out the clock, an entire presidential term will have gone by with the nation’s highest officeholder making countless foreign policy decisions under a cloud of potentially divided loyalty and compromised judgment caused by his enrichment from foreign states. That is precisely the nightmare scenario the Framers adopted the Foreign Emoluments Clause to avoid,” the members of Congress wrote in a previous court filing.