The US Supreme Court has ruled 7-2 to allow a New York prosecutor to obtain President Donald Trump's financial records as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, but rejected, also in a 7-2 ruling, the records' release to Democratic congressional committees.
The first of the rulings - allowing the enforcement of a subpoena issued to Trump accounting firm Mazars LLP by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr demanding tax returns as part of a grand jury probe into alleged payoffs to two women, former porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in 2016, is a loss for the president, whose defense attorneys argued that the Constitution shields him from any criminal proceedings while in office. Trump has denied having a relationship with either of the women.
The president expressed his disappointment with the ruling, calling it "political prosecution."
"I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!" he tweeted.
The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution. I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2020
However, the second ruling, which prevented Trump's records from being made available to Democratic-led Congressional committees conducting their own separate investigations against him, is arguably a win for the White House, allowing for records to stay private, at least for the short term, because the New York grand jury probe will require confidentiality.
The Democratic-led House Oversight Committee, House Financial Services Committee and House Intelligence Committee have each begun their own finance-related probes into the president, investigating everything from alleged tax fraud and money laundering to vulnerabilities to foreign influence caused by his companies' dealings abroad. The White House has dismissed all of these claims, and argued that providing the tax records to these committees would immediately lead to them being leaked to the press.
Trump continued to vent on Twitter following the pair of rulings, suggesting that the "totally corrupt" Obama administration was openly caught spying on his campaign in 2016 but has faced no legal repercussions.
Accusing the Democrats of sending their cases against him "to politically corrupt New York...to give it a second, third and fourth try," Trump suggested that the Supreme Court's ruling would never have been made against any other president.
"This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT. We catch the other side SPYING on my campaign, the biggest political crime and scandal in US history, and "NOTHING HAPPENS," Trump complained.
....No Republican Senate Judiciary response, NO “JUSTICE”, NO FBI, NO NOTHING. Major horror show REPORTS on Comey & McCabe, guilty as hell, nothing happens. Catch Obama & Biden cold, nothing. A 3 year, $45,000,000 Mueller HOAX, failed - investigated everything....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2020
....for another President. This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT. We catch the other side SPYING on my campaign, the biggest political crime and scandal in U.S. history, and NOTHING HAPPENS. But despite this, I have done more than any President in history in first 3 1/2 years!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 9, 2020
Tax Return Saga
Trump's tax returns is an issue that has dogged the billionaire real estate mogul ever since he announced his campaign for president in 2015. During the Republican primaries, other candidates and the media repeatedly demanded that Trump release his tax returns, which he promised to do after an audit was complete. Later, during the general election, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton criticized Trump's alleged lack of transparency, and suggested that the tax records may show his use of loopholes to avoid payment of federal income taxes. Trump argued that voters didn't care about his taxes. In 2017, after becoming president, he told reporters he "might" release his tax returns after his term in office was over.
Commenting on Thursday's rulings, Francine Lipman, a tax expert and professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas School of Law, told Sputnik that they probably won't have any direct impact on the 2020 election.
"The good news is that transparency and the rule of law prevailed today in the US Supreme Court. However, the wheels of justice turn slowly, albeit steadily. Both financial disclosure cases were remanded back to the lower courts, the president will have the opportunity to continue to litigate and delay the eventual disclosure of this information. Given that the election is fast approaching I expect these documents will not be available even to the NY Attorney General before the election. However, in time these documents will most likely have to be delivered to the NY Attorney General and Congress," Lipman explained.
Michael Gerhardt, a professor of constitutional law at the University of North Carolina, similarly believes both of the Supreme Court's decisions "are largely losses" for the president over the long term, since even in the second ruling, "the Court asked the lower courts to rethink what should be done with the House’s subpoenas through a balancing test that takes seriously the president’s objection that they interfere too much with his duties as president," rather than throwing the requests out completely.
Iowa University professor of law Andy Grewal echoed Lipman's sentiment that the Supreme Court's decision "won't have significant immediate effect" ahead of the November vote.
Grewal also emphasized that "the law does not currently require presidents to release *all* of their financial information. Instead, presidential candidates must make specific disclosures, which Trump has made. The Democrats have not been satisfied with those disclosures and have thus made further demands. They have proposed changing the law to require that presidents disclose their tax returns, but they cannot pass that law without Republican support."