The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case on whether Democratic lawmakers should be able to sue to obtain documents related to former President Trump’s former Washington, D.C., hotel.
The hotel documents have largely fallen out of focus in the dispute, as several lawmakers who filed the lawsuit have since left Congress or died, and Democrats obtained many of the requested materials through other means.
But the case will more broadly impact how the minority party in Congress can scrutinize a presidential administration.
Democrats, in seeking the documents, leveraged a federal law known as the “Seven Member Rule.” It allows any seven members of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability or any five members of the Senate Homeland Security Committee to ask for information within their purview from executive agencies.
After a Trump-era agency declined to turn over the documents under the rule, Democrats sued to enforce their demand. In a brief, unsigned order on Monday, the Supreme Court agreed to consider whether the lawmakers have legal standing to move ahead in their case.
The order sets up the case to be heard during the court’s next annual term, with a ruling expected by summer 2024.
Biden administration opposes precedent
After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that the lawmakers’ suit could move forward, the Biden administration appealed to the justices and urged them to reverse the decision over concerns about the precedent the decision would set.
The Justice Department raised concerns that the decision could open administrations up to more scrutiny by Congress, even by a political party that is not in power.
“That decision conflicts with this Court’s precedents and contradicts historical practice stretching to the beginning of the Republic. The decision also resolves exceptionally important questions of constitutional law and threatens serious harm to all three branches of the federal government. This Court should grant certiorari and reverse,” the Justice Department wrote in its request.
Attorneys for the Democratic lawmakers, meanwhile, asked the justices to let the lower ruling stand.
“This case is a legal unicorn,” the lawmakers wrote in court filings. “There is no conflict among the circuits over standing under Section 2954. Indeed, only three times over the course of nearly a century have Members sued to enforce Section 2954, and neither of the earlier cases resulted in an appellate ruling on standing (or anything else).”
Trump criticized over hotel
Trump’s hotel, which was located a few blocks from the White House, became a popular meeting place for GOP power players during his administration.
Democratic lawmakers sought financial records related to the hotel from the General Services Administration (GSA). The federal government owns the building, the Old Post Office Pavilion, and GSA leased it to Trump to convert into a luxury hotel.
Democrats have accused the former president of hiding a significant amount of debt during the GSA’s initial bidding process for the hotel. They have also raised concerns about how Trump managed potential conflicts of interest while he served as president, including doing business with foreign governments who stayed at the hotel at the same time they were seeking to influence U.S. foreign policy. Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
The Trump Organization sold the property in May 2022.