On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued divided opinions in two cases on whether President Donald Trump can protect his tax records from investigators, handing a victory to the Manhattan district attorney but rejecting the Democrats’ parallel efforts in the House of Representatives.
Both cases were decided 7-2, with Chief Justice John Roberts authorizing the court’s opinion and accompanied mostly by justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Judges Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito disagreed in both cases.
The decisions mark the first time that the nation’s highest court has ruled directly on a matter related to Trump’s personal dealings. Trump has been more reserved with his finances than any other president in decades, refusing to disclose his tax records to the public even when running for reelection.
The cases were decided on the last day of the Supreme Court’s mandate, which began last October and extended beyond its typical conclusion in late June as a result of precautions taken against the spread of the coronavirus.
“In our judicial system, ‘the public has a right to every man’s evidence.’ From the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the President of the United States,” Roberts wrote in the New York case.
That case stemmed from an investigation conducted by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. Vance issued a subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, for a wide variety of Trump’s personal and business records, including statements by taxes, dating back to 2011.
Vance’s office is investigating the silence payments Trump allegedly made available to two women before the 2016 election, although the purpose of his subpoenas is relatively unclear.
The women claim to have had sex with the president that he has denied. Vance has not said if Trump is a suspect in his investigation, and has not indicated any potential charges.
Trump’s attorneys have lobbied for an expansive view of presidential immunity in the case.
At a hearing in a first-instance court in New York, a lawyer for the president said that, in theory, Trump would be immune to the investigation, even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York. During the 2016 campaign, Trump stated that he could “stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot someone and that he would not lose any voters.”
In a statement, Vance called Thursday’s decision “a tremendous victory for our nation’s justice system and its fundamental principle that no one, not even a president, is above the law.”
“Our investigation, which was delayed nearly a year by this lawsuit, will resume, guided as always by the solemn obligation of the grand jury to follow the law and the facts, wherever they lead,” Vance said.
The congressional cases involved subpoenas issued by committees led by Democrats in the House of Representatives, which sought financial records from the accounting firm of President Mazars USA, as well as its banks, Capital One and Deutsche Bank.
“This case is different,” Roberts wrote in the opinion issued Thursday. “Here the president’s information is not requested by prosecutors or private parties in relation to a particular judicial proceeding, but by congressional committees that have set broad legislative goals.”
“Congress and the President, the two political branches established by the Constitution, have an ongoing relationship that the Framers intended to present rivalry and reciprocity,” wrote Roberts.
The House of Representatives Oversight Committee sought information in connection with investigations into claims made by former President Michael Cohen’s attorney that Trump inflated and deflated his assets to meet his needs.
The oversight panel is also investigating the fact that Trump has not disclosed a $ 130,000 silence payment that he owed to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in his 2017 disclosure form. The Government Ethics Office has said that Trump should have listed the debt, which he owed to Cohen, for facilitating payment, as a liability.
The financial and intelligence services committees issued two separate subpoenas to Deutsche Bank seeking information on the president and his family members, including his sons Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump, and Ivanka Trump. A third subpoena, from the financial services committee, asked Capital One for a wide variety of information on 15 Trump businesses.
The financial services committee is investigating possible foreign money laundering. Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the intelligence committee, said his committee’s investigation involves finding out whether “any foreign actor has attempted to compromise or have financial or other influence over Donald Trump, his family, his business or his associates. “
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