Supreme Court says President Trump cannot keep tax, financial records from prosecutors

  • In Business
  • 2020-07-09 14:56:07Z
Supreme Court says President Trump cannot keep tax, financial records from prosecutors
Supreme Court says President Trump cannot keep tax, financial records from prosecutors  

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that President Donald Trump cannot keep his tax returns and financial records away from a New York City prosecutor pursuing possible hush-money payments.

At the same time, the court temporarily blocked congressional investigators from gaining access to many of the same records.

Both 7-2 decisions were written by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by Trump's two nominees, Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. The ruling in the congressional case sends the separation of powers dispute back to lower courts for further determination.

The landmark rulings carry political as well as legal and constitutional implications for the president and law enforcement officials who have argued the records could reveal evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

More: Supreme Court blocks House Democrats from access to Trump's financial records for now

"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," the chief justice wrote. "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."

Kavanaugh wrote separately for himself and Gorsuch and stressed that Trump's lawyers still can raise new arguments at the district court level.

"In our system of government, as this court has often stated, no one is above the law," Kavanaugh said. "That principle applies, of course, to a president."

Trump, acting through his personal legal team, has refused to comply with subpoenas from the Manhattan district attorney seeking information from his accountant and bankers.

"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," Vance said Thursday. "Our investigation, which was delayed for almost a year by this lawsuit, will resume, guided as always by the grand jury's solemn obligation to follow the law and the facts, wherever they may lead."

During oral arguments held by telephone in May because of the coronavirus pandemic, conservative and liberal justices alike wondered how to balance investigators' need for evidence against the president's claim that he must be free from distracting, even harassing, probes.

In previous battles over documents or testimony, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Presidents Richard Nixon in 1974 and Bill Clinton in 1997, with their nominees in agreement. The decisions led eventually to Nixon's resignation and Clinton's impeachment, though he was not ultimately removed from office by the Senate.

The legal battle pits Trump against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who issued a subpoena for financial documents as well as the tax returns that Trump, unlike recent predecessors, has not released.

Vance's subpoenas came as part of a criminal probe of alleged hush-money payments that Michael Cohen, Trump's former lawyer, said were made to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Both women claimed they had affairs with Trump, which he has denied. Two lower courts upheld the subpoenas.

Trump's lawyers have argued that the president has absolute immunity while in office from grand jury investigations of criminal conduct. During oral arguments before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, they contended Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and escape prosecution until he leaves office.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court: Prosecutor Cy Vance can get Donald Trump's tax records


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