President Donald Trump can block the immediate release of his financial records to Congress, but prosecutors in New York City may see them, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
The New York Times called the 7-to-2 ruling in the prosecutor case “a stunning defeat” for Trump but said the ruling probably means the records, which would go first to a grand jury, will be shielded from public scrutiny until after November’s election.
In our judicial system, “the public has a right to every man’s evidence,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the New York case. “Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the President of the United States.”
Trump had asked the justices to block both sets of subpoenas, which sought information from the president’s accountants and bankers, not from Trump himself.
Trump’s lawyers contended that he was immune from criminal proceedings and investigations while he is in office and that Congress had no legislative need to obtain his records.
“Congressional subpoenas for information from the President … implicate special concerns regarding the separation of powers. The courts below did not take adequate account of those concerns,” Roberts wrote in the congressional case.
House Democrats and prosecutors said the records may shed light on Trump’s foreign entanglements, possible conflicts of interest, whether he paid all taxes and whether his hush money payments violated campaign finance laws.
The court’s decisions were major statements on the scope of presidential power that will rank with earlier rulings that required President Richard Nixon to turn over tapes of Oval Office conversations and forced President Bill Clinton to provide evidence in a sexual harassment suit.
Only Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. Trump’s two high court appointees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, agreed with the majority.
The rulings were the last in the high court’s term that started last October. Arguments in the Trump cases were held in May by teleconference during the coronavirus pandemic.
One case concerned a subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat. It seeks eight years of business and personal tax records in connection with an investigation of the role that Trump and the Trump Organization played in hush-money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 election.
“This is a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one – not even a president – is above the law,” said Vance, The Hill reports.
Trump tweeted that the cases were “political prosecutions.”
Noting that further court action will be required in the New York case, the president said, “The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. Now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”
The second subpoena, also to the accounting firm, came from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which is investigating the hush-money payments and whether Trump inflated and deflated descriptions of his assets on financial statements to obtain loans and reduce his taxes.
Trump has denied wrongdoing and his private attorneys have filed multiple lawsuits to prevent Mazars and two additional third-party financial institutions — Deutsche Bank and Capital One — from disclosing his financial records.