FILE PHOTO: U.S. flags fly over the Trump International Hotel in Washington, U.S., August 3, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo
(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Thursday halted a lawsuit accusing President Donald Trump of violating anti-corruption provisions in the U.S. Constitution, saying it would review crucial preliminary rulings that allowed the case to proceed.
The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said it would review a set of lower court rulings that allowed Democratic attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia to move forward with the case.
The appeals court said it would hear oral arguments in the case in March and froze legal discovery in the case, evidence-gathering that could force disclosure of Trump’s financial records.
U.S. Department of Justice lawyers representing Trump had urged the appeals court to step in, rather than wait until a final judgment in the case was issued.
“The complaint rests on a host of novel and fundamentally flawed constitutional premises, and litigating the claims would entail intrusive discovery into the President’s personal financial affairs and the official actions of his Administration,” the Justice Department said in a court filing.
The lawsuit, filed in June 2017, said Trump failed to disentangle himself from his hotels and other businesses, making him vulnerable to inducements by foreign officials seeking to curry favor. One of the Constitution’s emoluments provisions bars U.S. officials from accepting gifts or other emoluments from foreign governments without congressional approval.
U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte, presiding over the case in Greenbelt, Maryland, has narrowed the lawsuit to claims involving Trump International Hotel in Washington and not Trump’s businesses beyond the U.S. capital.
Messitte ruled in March that the two attorneys general had legal standing to pursue the case, and in July rejected what he called Trump’s “cramped” view that emoluments were limited essentially to outright bribes.
The two attorneys general on Dec. 4 issued subpoenas for financial records from Trump’s businesses.
Reporting by Jan Wolfe; editing by Diane Craft