Former federal prosecutor explains Trump's insidious plan to keep his financial records hidden until after the 2020 election

Former federal prosecutor explains Trump's insidious plan to keep his financial records hidden until after the 2020 election
President Donald J. Trump listens to a reporter’s question during the coronavirus update briefing Monday, April 27, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

President Donald Trump is so determined to keep his tax returns from being made public that he is willing to take the matter all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court — which, this week, is hearing oral arguments in lawsuits asserting that his financial records should not be subpoenaed. Barbara McQuade, a former federal prosecutor who has often appeared as a legal analyst on MSNBC and NBC News, discusses the lawsuit in an op-ed for USA Today and stresses that the lawsuit is part of Trump’s plan to keep his financial records hidden until after the 2020 presidential election.


“At issue before the Court are three lawsuits filed by Trump to prevent his accounting firm and banks from complying with subpoenas seeking Trump’s financial records,” explains McQuade, who now teaches at the University of Michigan Law School. “In two of the cases argued Tuesday, the subpoenas came from congressional committees. In the third case, a grand jury subpoena was served by the Manhattan district attorney, (Cyrus Vance), in a criminal investigation into potential state campaign finance violations.”

Trump’s lawsuits, McQuade asserts, are part of a stalling tactic.

“For Trump, who has famously said he will be ‘fighting all the subpoenas,’ the primary goal appears to be delay,” McQuade observes. “Even if the records must ultimately be produced, if Trump can slow walk these cases until after the November election, he can claim a victory. By that point, if the content of the documents became public and contained derogatory or dangerous information, it would be too late to influence his re-election.”

McQuade points out that lower federal courts have been rejecting Trump’s arguments in the lawsuits and that the president and his attorneys are hoping the U.S. Supreme Court will disagree with the lower courts.

“Trump argues that permitting third parties to produce the subpoenaed documents would be too distracting to him while he is serving as president, and would subject him to harassment,” McQuade writes. “His lawyers also argued that a sitting president is temporarily immune not only from prosecution, but also, from investigation.”

The High Court justices who have been “expressing skepticism about some of the Trump team's arguments,” according to McQuade, have ranged from Chief Justice John Roberts to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. McQuade notes that Ginsburg “pointed to the precedent in cases against Richard Nixon — holding that the president’s executive privilege must yield to a grand jury subpoena in a criminal case, resulting in the release of Oval Office tapes — and Bill Clinton, holding that a sitting president lacks absolute immunity from civil suits.”

McQuade concludes his op-ed by noting that if Trump “can get five justices to agree” with him, “the production of the documents could be delayed for many months, perhaps past the November election. And Trump could be saved by the bell.”

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