By Jan Wolfe
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Democrats in the U.S. Congress on Monday said they were using a court case to demand documents from President Donald Trump’s businesses in hopes of proving that they violated anti-corruption provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
A group of more than 200 Democratic Party lawmakers said in a statement that as part of lawsuit in federal court they had issued 37 subpoenas the Trump Organization and other entities, seeking information about foreign government payments accepted by properties in his real estate empire.
The subpoenas also seek information about trademarks granted to Trump businesses by foreign governments.
“Our goal is simple and straightforward – stopping President Trump from putting a ‘For Sale’ sign in Russian on the door to the Oval Office,” said Richard Blumenthal, a senator from Connecticut and the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Blumenthal added that the politicians were seeking “a targeted set of documents” to ensure Trump “can no longer shirk his constitutional responsibility.”
The U.S. Department of Justice, which is representing Trump in the court case, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The move had been expected in light of recent rulings by U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington in favour of the Democratic Party lawmakers.
Trump, a wealthy real estate developer, maintains ownership of his businesses but has ceded day-to-day control to his sons. Critics have said that is not a sufficient safeguard.
In 2017, Democrats filed a lawsuit alleging Trump was illegally profiting from his businesses in various ways, including by collecting payments from foreign government officials who stay at his properties and accepting trademark registrations around the world for his company’s products.
A similar case brought the Maryland and the District of Columbia attorneys general is also making its way through the courts.
The litigation represents the first time in U.S. history courts have interpreted the so-called “Emoluments Clauses” of the Constitution, which bans U.S. officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign and state governments without congressional consent.
On June 25 Sullivan rejected a request by Trump administration lawyers to halt the case and let them file an expedited appeal of key preliminary rulings he issued against the president.
On Monday the Justice Department urged an appeals court to put the litigation on hold, saying it was based on “novel and flawed constitutional premises” and allows “intrusive discovery into the President’s personal financial affairs.”
(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)