Supreme Court: Mixed rulings on grand jury and congressional subpoenas for Trump tax and financial records
Two political wins for Trump: Grand Jury case sent back to lower courts where Trump can raise other objections, and for now his accountants do not have to produce financial records to Democrats in Congress.
The Supreme Court has ruled in two cases whether Trump’s financial records and tax returns are subject to subpoena.
Issue: Whether the Committee on Financial Services and the Intelligence Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives have the constitutional and statutory authority to issue a subpoena to creditors for President Donald Trump and several of his business entities demanding private financial records belonging to the president.
The third case, involving a New York grand jury subpoena obtained by the Democratic District Attorney in Manhattan for Trump’s tax returns is Trump v. Vance.
Issue: Whether a grand-jury subpoena served on a custodian of the president’s personal records, demanding production of nearly 10 years’ worth of the president’s financial papers and his tax returns, violates Article II and the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.
In Vance, the court ruled 7-2 in an opinion by Roberts, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch concurring in the judgment, with Alito and Thomas dissenting. The Court rejected Trump’s “absolute immunity” or “heightened need” claim, but left open that there may be other objections Trump can raise in the lower courts:
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. The “guard furnished to this high officer” lies where it always has—in “the conduct of a court” applying established legal and constitutional principles to individual subpoenas in a manner that preserves both the independence of the Executive and the integrity of the criminal justice system. Burr, 25 F. Cas., at 34.
The arguments presented here and in the Court of Appeals were limited to absolute immunity and heightened need. The Court of Appeals, however, has directed that the case be returned to the District Court, where the President may raise further arguments as appropriate.
Vance is a backhanded political win for Trump, since there will be more litigation and possibly a return trip to the Supreme Court. His goal is to drag things out so it doesn’t affect the election. But it now leaves Trump open to innumerable additional investigations by politically motivated prosecutors.
In Mazars, Trump have more of a win. Another Roberts decision, with Thomas and Alito dissenting. The court overruled the enforcement of the congressional subpoenas, holding the lower courts did not adequately take into account separation of powers:
When Congress seeks information “needed for intelligent legislative action,” it “unquestionably” remains “the duty of all citizens to cooperate.” Watkins, 354 U. S., at 187 (emphasis added). 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. The judgments of the Courts of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit and the Second Circuit are vacated, and the cases are remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
This is another political win for Trump, as his accountants do not have to produce anything to the congressional Democrats — for now.
I discussed the decisions on The Tony Katz Show.DONATE
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