Donald Trump's Lawyers Are Using Government Shutdown to Delay Emoluments Clause Case

President Donald Trump's government shutdown over $5 billion to fund a border wall has given the commander-in-chief a slight respite from his own legal woes.

Justice Department lawyers representing the president in a lawsuit that claims Trump is making illegal foreign financial gains from his Washington, D.C., hotel, have asked a federal appeals judge to indefinitely postpone all filings in the case because of the shutdown. The court agreed.

The suit, brought by the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, claims the president is illegally profiting off business from foreigners at his D.C. hotel, which opened in late 2016. The U.S. Constitution bans foreign emoluments.

The emoluments clause was put into the Constitution to protect the U.S. from a president who places business deals ahead of the nation's security. "No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state," it states.

Maryland and D.C. have filed suit claiming that the president's new hotel has taken business, including business done by foreign officials who wish to curry favor with the president, away from them and that they are losing money because of it.

A number of foreign dignitaries have stayed at the hotel while in D.C, including representatives from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, the American Turkish Council and the Kuwait Embassy.

The president has attempted to stop the lawsuit, but so far he has been unsuccessful in his appeals to judges. If the suit continues, it is possible a judge would be able to look carefully into the president's business operations and request his tax returns.

Trump's lawyers's filings in the appeals case are not due until the end of January, but the court agreed to their request to freeze the suit until the shutdown ends.

"The Department does not know when funding will be restored by Congress," the lawyers wrote. "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."

Justice Department lawyers typically represent government employees in suits brought against them. The emolument case was first brought upon the office of the president, but was later amended to name Trump personally. The president also has his personal lawyers working on the case.