The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 affirming that the Manhattan district attorney can subpoena the president’s tax records but also ruled 7-2 to prevent Democrats in Congress from seeing them now, sending the cases back to be argued in the lower courts. This essentially guarantees the public will not see the president’s taxes before the election.
Both opinions were authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, with Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissenting. Both justices appointed by Trump joined the majority.
In the decision allowing Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance to subpoena Trump’s taxes in a criminal case about suspected hush-money payments made to women before Trump was elected, Roberts said that the president is not “absolutely immune” from criminal prosecution, as Trump’s lawyers had argued.
“Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding. We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need,” Roberts wrote for the majority.
The ruling, however, does not force the president to comply with the district attorney’s subpoena, and he can fight it by other legal means.
In the decision regarding Congress and the president’s records, the majority tossed out rulings in the lower courts that would have allowed House Democrats to subpoena tax and business records from the president’s accounting firm and two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One. But, they sent the cases back to the lower courts to continue to be argued.
Writing for the majority, Roberts said, “When Congress seeks information ‘needed for intelligent legislative action,’ it ‘unquestionably’ remains ‘the duty of all citizens to cooperate.’ Congressional subpoenas for information from the President, however, implicate special concerns regarding the separation of powers. The courts below did not take adequate account of those concerns.”
Reacting to the news, Trump angrily tweeted about the rulings. “Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference.’ BUT NOT ME!” the president whined. He then trotted out one of his favorite excuses: Obamagate, the scandal that never was.
“We have a totally corrupt previous Administration, including a President and Vice President who spied on my campaign, AND GOT CAIGHT [sic]…and nothing happens to them,” the president wrote, adding, “This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT.”
Regardless of the president’s rants, however, the court today ruled that no president is above the law.