Supreme Court rejects Trump's claim of 'absolute immunity' — but we probably still won't see his tax returns before the election

Supreme Court rejects Trump's claim of 'absolute immunity' — but we probably still won't see his tax returns before the election
Supreme Court of the United States

On Thursday, July 9, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its anxiously awaited decision in Trump v. Vance — ruling that the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office can have access to President Donald Trump’s financial documents. But on the same day, the High Court also ruled, in Trump v. Mazars, that Congress — at least for now — cannot have access to them.

In the 7-2 Trump v. Vance decision, the dissenters were Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito. Trump v. Mazars was also a 7-2 decision, and the High Court sent Trump v. Mazars back to the lower courts for further evaluation.

Trump and his attorneys have been aggressively fighting the office of Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance, claiming that because the president enjoys “absolute immunity,” he is under no obligation to share his financial records with Vance and other prosecutors. But the U.S. Supreme Court, in its Trump v. Vance ruling, rejected Trump’s “absolutely immunity” claims. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote, “Given these safeguards and the Court’s precedents, we cannot conclude that absolute immunity is necessary or appropriate under Article II or the Supremacy Clause. Our dissenting colleagues agree.”

New York Times reporter Peter Baker described the Trump v. Vance decision as a “stunning defeat for the president.” However, Baker also noted that the High Court did not “authorize Congress to have” Trump’s financial records, “meaning the public is unlikely to see them before the election, if ever.”

Trump was quick to rail against the High Court on Twitter, posting, “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!” In a separate tweet, the president wrote, “Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference.’ BUT NOT ME!”

In the New York Times, Supreme Court reporter Adam Liptak noted, “Mr. Trump’s lawyers had argued that he was immune from all criminal proceedings and investigations so long as he remained in office — and that Congress was powerless to obtain his records because it had no legislative need for them. House Democrats and New York prosecutors said the records may shed light on Mr. Trump’s foreign entanglements, possible conflicts of interest, whether he has paid his taxes and whether his hush money payments violated campaign finance laws.”

While Trump v. Vance was a victory for Vance’s office, the decision in Trump v. Mazars was a disappointment for Democrats in Congress. Trump’s financial records have been sought by a combination of prosecutors and politicians, including members of the House Financial Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee (which is chaired by Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California).

On Twitter, @SCOTUSblog explained, “In Trump v. Mazars, Trump wins this stage of dispute over congressional subpoenas to lenders and accountant for president’s financial records as #SCOTUS, 7-2, sends case back to lower courts to take account of separation of powers concerns.”

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