SCOTUS rules Manhattan prosecutor can obtain Trump’s taxes, financial records but Congress cannot

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Two justices President Donald Trump appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court joined all four liberals in ruling that a prosecutor in Manhattan can obtain his financial and tax records, but barred Democrats in Congress from accessing them for now.

The president’s legal team has been waging a major battle to keep those records private. But in a 7-2 decision in which Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch joined the court’s liberals, the ruling allows Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to obtain eight years’ worth of Trump’s business and tax records.

Vance subpoenaed the records last year as part of an investigation into whether the president and his company violated New York laws in connection with ‘hush money’ payments to a number of women who claim to have had affairs with him.

That said, The Daily Beast reports that the ruling actually sends the case back to lower courts, “meaning Trump’s legal team could still try to delay before the case is ultimately resolved.”

Separately, the high court also ruled 7-2 that congressional Democrats cannot issue subpoenas for a wider range of the president’s financial documents than investigators initially asked for.

The president has vigorously fought efforts to force him to publicly release financial and tax records, though the past six presidents have done so. That said, there is no constitutional requirement for presidential contenders or sitting presidents to do so. Also, past presidents have not had to endure subpoenas for financial records from local prosecutors or Congress.

Trump’s legal team has argued that there is no legal justification for the demands and that efforts to force him to disclose his records are politically motivated.

In November, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ordered the records to be turned over to Vance’s office. But in their appeal, the Trump legal team said that “constitutional issues” are at stake.

“The decision of the Second Circuit will be taken to the Supreme Court. The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our Republic,” Jay Sekulow, counsel to the president, said. “The constitutional issues are significant.”

In the Second Circuit’s ruling, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero assailed the president’s“categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity.”

“We hold, however, that any presidential immunity from state criminal process does not extend to investigative steps like the grand jury subpoena at issue here,” he continued.

“We accordingly AFFIRM the district court’s decision on the immunity question, which we construe as an order denying a preliminary injunction, VACATE the judgment of the district court dismissing the complaint on the ground of Younger abstention, and REMAND for further proceedings consistent with this opinion,” Marrero noted further.

The president filed suit against Vance in September, arguing that a subpoena for records from his accounting firm, Mazars USA, was “unconstitutional.”

“Because the Mazars subpoena attempts to criminally investigate a sitting president, it is unconstitutional,” the court papers argued. “This court should declare it invalid and enjoin its enforcement until the president is no longer in office.”

As for congressional Democrats, The Daily Beast notes:

In Trump v. Mazars, a case consolidated with Trump v. Deutsche Bank, three House committees argued it was within their constitutional authority to issue Trump a subpoena to obtain several years worth of personal financial documents and records from his accounting firm Mazars. 

The committees, including the Committee on Oversight and Reform that issued the subpoena in mid-2019 to Mazars, argued the documents were part of an investigation into government ethics and conflicts of interest in the executive branch. Part of the investigation, the committee argued, included “the accuracy of statements made by the President on various financial discloses.” 

The subpoenas were issued after Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who has been convicted of various financial crimes and was referred to the Justice Department last year by GOP lawmakers for allegedly lying during testimony, claimed the president inflated his wealth in order to secure loans from banks.

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Jon Dougherty

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