(RightWing.org) – Remnants of a Democratic-led effort to obtain information from the General Services Administration (GSA) linger on regarding financial information related to Trump International Hotel Washington, DC. Now the Supreme Court will weigh in on the matter.
The luxury lodging and meeting facility was located blocks from the White House and became a hotspot for foreign dignitaries and Republican power players during his administration.
The federal government owns the landmark 1899 building, commonly known as the Old Post Office Pavilion, and leased it in 2013 to a consortium led by Trump through a revocable trust for 60 years. DJT Holdings LLC converted the building into a luxury hotel that operated from September 2016 through May 2022 after selling the lease to DBI Merchant Group.
Democratic House Members Go on a Fishing Expedition
In November 2017, a group of 17 Democratic members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform filed a lawsuit to compel the GSA to turn over documents as part of the panel’s handling of potential conflicts of interest between Donald Trump’s job as President of the United States and his role as the hotel’s owner. The lawmakers used an archaic law informally known as the Seven Member Rule or Five Member Rule (5 USC. § 2954) to obtain the materials. The statute allows any seven members of House oversight committees or five from the Senate to compel executive branch offices to release information.
The US District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed the lawsuit in August 2018, holding that the petitioners lacked standing to bring the action as individual members of Congress. However, a three-judge panel from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision in December 2020. The lawmakers filed a petition for a rehearing by the full panel in April 2021, but the DC Circuit denied the request in August 2022.
Then, in November 2022, the Department of Justice petitioned for a writ of certiorari in the US Supreme Court on behalf of the GSA. Lawyers for the remaining respondents (lawmakers) filed a brief in opposition in February 2023, and the Supreme Court granted certiorari on May 15, 2023.
A Major Separation of Powers Case is Born
Although the current action, Carnahan v. Maloney, began as an effort by Democratic lawmakers to obtain materials regarding Trump’s former hotel, it has morphed into a major case regarding the ability of individual members of Congress to invoke standing under Article III of the US Constitution to sue an executive agency to compel it to release information requested using 5 USC. § 2954.
Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued in her petition for the writ of certiorari that the lawmakers’ suit was “almost unprecedented” and served as a “stark departure” from the fundamental principles underlying the constitutionally mandated separation of powers. She also argued Congress and the executive branch have “resolved [similar] disputes through negotiation and compromise,” warning that if the justices allowed the DC Circuit’s precedence to stand, that process would be replaced “with a system of litigation and judicial decree.”
In other words, Prelogar argued if the Supreme Court didn’t overturn the lower court’s decision, “errant” lawmakers could flood the legal system with lawsuits “contrary to the will” of their committees. She predicted the consequences would be “ruinous” if the DC Circuit’s ruling stands.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments during its next term and is expected to hand down its ruling in 2024.
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