Court keeps Trump taxes pri­vate for now

The Maui News - - Front Page - By MARK SHERMAN The As­so­ci­ated Press

WASH­ING­TON — Re­ject­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s com­plaints that he’s be­ing ha­rassed, the Supreme Court ruled Thurs­day in fa­vor of a New York prose­cu­tor’s de­mands for the bil­lion­aire pres­i­dent’s tax records. But in good po­lit­i­cal news for Trump, his taxes and other fi­nan­cial records al­most cer­tainly will be kept out of the pub­lic eye at least un­til af­ter the Novem­ber elec­tion.

In a sep­a­rate case, the jus­tices kept a hold on bank­ing and other doc­u­ments about Trump, fam­ily mem­bers and his busi­nesses that Congress has been seek­ing for more than a year. The court said that while Congress has sig­nif­i­cant power to de­mand the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal in­for­ma­tion, it is not lim­it­less.

The court turned away the broad­est ar­gu­ments by Trump’s lawyers and the Jus­tice Depart­ment that the pres­i­dent is im­mune from in­ves­ti­ga­tion while he holds of­fice or that a prose­cu­tor must show a greater need than nor­mal to ob­tain the tax records. But it is un­clear when a lower court judge might order the Man­hat­tan district at­tor­ney’s sub­poena to be en­forced.

Trump is the only pres­i­dent in modern times who has re­fused to make his tax re­turns pub­lic, and be­fore he was elected he promised to re­lease them. He didn’t em­brace Thurs­day’s out­come as a vic­tory even though it is likely to pre­vent his op­po­nents in Congress from ob­tain­ing po­ten­tially em­bar­rass­ing per­sonal and busi­ness records ahead

of Elec­tion Day.

In fact, the in­creas­ing like­li­hood that a grand jury will even­tu­ally get to ex­am­ine the doc­u­ments drove the pres­i­dent into a pub­lic rage. He lashed out declar­ing that “It’s a pure witch hunt, it’s a hoax” and call­ing New York, where he has lived most of his life, “a hell­hole.”

The doc­u­ments have the po­ten­tial to re­veal details on ev­ery­thing from pos­si­ble mis­deeds to the true na­ture of the pres­i­dent’s vaunted wealth — not to men­tion un­com­fort­able dis­clo­sures about how he’s spent his money and how much he’s given to char­ity.

The re­jec­tion of Trump’s claims of pres­i­den­tial im­mu­nity marked the lat­est in­stance where his broad as­ser­tion of ex­ec­u­tive power has been re­jected.

Trump’s two high court ap­pointees, Jus­tices Neil Gor­such

and Brett Ka­vanaugh, joined the ma­jor­ity in both cases along with Chief Jus­tice John Roberts and the four lib­eral jus­tices. Roberts wrote both opin­ions.

“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,” Roberts wrote in the con­gres­sional case.

But Roberts also wrote that Trump was ask­ing for too much. “The stan­dards pro­posed by the Pres­i­dent and the Solic­i­tor Gen­eral—if ap­plied out­side the con­text of priv­i­leged in­for­ma­tion—would risk se­ri­ously im­ped­ing Congress in car­ry­ing out its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” the chief jus­tice wrote.

The rul­ing re­turns the con­gres­sional case to lower courts, with no clear prospect for when it might ul­ti­mately be re­solved.

Promis­ing to keep press­ing the case in the lower courts, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thurs­day’s de­ci­sion “is not good news for Pres­i­dent Trump.”

“The Court has reaf­firmed the Congress’s author­ity to con­duct over­sight on be­half of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” Pelosi said in a state­ment.

The tax re­turns case also is headed back to a lower court. Mazars USA, Trump’s ac­count­ing firm, holds the tax re­turns and has in­di­cated it would com­ply with a court order. Be­cause the grand jury process is con­fi­den­tial, Trump’s taxes nor­mally would not be made pub­lic.

Man­hat­tan District At­tor­ney Cyrus Vance Jr. said his in­ves­ti­ga­tion, on hold while the court fight played out, will now re­sume.

“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 said.

Even with his broad­est ar­gu­ments re­jected, Jay Seku­low, Trump’s per­sonal lawyer, said he was pleased that the “Supreme Court has tem­po­rar­ily blocked both Congress and New York pros­e­cu­tors from ob­tain­ing the Pres­i­dent’s fi­nan­cial records. We will now pro­ceed to raise ad­di­tional Con­sti­tu­tional and le­gal is­sues in the lower courts.”

Jus­tice Sa­muel Al­ito, who dis­sented with Jus­tice Clarence Thomas in both cases, warned that fu­ture pres­i­dents would suf­fer be­cause of the de­ci­sion about Trump’s taxes.

“While the de­ci­sion will of course have a di­rect ef­fect on Pres­i­dent Trump, what the Court holds to­day will also af­fect all fu­ture Pres­i­dents—which is to say, it will af­fect the Pres­i­dency, and that is a mat­ter of great and last­ing im­por­tance to the Na­tion,” Al­ito wrote.

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