Supreme Court To Settle Congressional Dems’ Dispute With Executive Branch Over Trump Hotel Records

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The Supreme Court agreed Monday to take a case considering whether individual members of Congress can sue executive agencies to compel record disclosures.

The case stems from Democratic lawmakers’ lawsuit against the General Services Administration (GSA) for information related to its 2013 agreement to lease out the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C. for a Trump hotel. Shortly after former President Donald Trump took office, Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee began raising conflict of interest concerns, filing a lawsuit in 2017 after the GSA refused to disclose all the requested records, according to court documents.

In 2020, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 in favor of the lawmakers, who argued they have standing to sue under a 1928 statute called the seven-member rule, which allows seven House Oversight and Reform Committee members to demand executive records, according to Politico.

The lawsuit was initiated by 17 House Oversight Committee members, led by former Ranking Member and Democratic Maryland Rep. Elijah E. Cummings. Only five members on the original lawsuit remain on the committee, according to the Department of Justice brief.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer Announces His Retirement

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 26: The U.S. Supreme Court building on the day it was reported that Associate Justice Stephen Breyer would soon retire on January 26, 2022 in Washington, DC. Appointed by President Bill Clinton, Breyer has been on the court since 1994. His retirement creates an opportunity for President Joe Biden, who has promised to nominate a Black woman for his first pick to the highest court in the country. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

While the Trump Organization sold its lease on the hotel and the Biden administration has now inherited the case, the Supreme Court’s decision holds high stakes for future presidential administrations, as it will clarify whether members of the minority party can require records disclosures without the support of a full committee. (RELATED: Here Are 7 Major Cases The Supreme Court Has Yet To Decide This Term)

President Joe Biden’s Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar called the lawsuit “almost unprecedented” and “a stark departure from fundamental separation-of-powers principles” in her brief opposing the D.C. Circuit’s decision that granted the lawmakers standing.

“Until now, Congress and the Executive have resolved such disputes through negotiation and compromise, but the decision below threatens to replace that process of political accommodation with a system of litigation and judicial decree,” she wrote.

Judge Douglas Ginsburg, who dissented from the D.C. Circuit’s 2020 decision, wrote that the decision “blazes a trail for judicial enforcement of requests made by an errant group of Members acting contrary to the will of their committee.”

“The consequences of allowing a handful of members to enforce in court demands for Executive Branch documents without regard to the wishes of the House majority are sure to be ruinous,” he wrote.

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