The Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Donald Trump’s battle to keep his tax returns secret but the decisions likely mean that his tax documents will not be released prior to the election.
The court ruled 7-2, with conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and Trump-appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh siding with the court’s four liberals to reject Trump’s claim that he has “absolute immunity” from criminal investigation as president.
But the decision remanded the case back to lower courts, meaning that the Manhattan grand jury that issued the subpoena may not see the documents until after the election.
"No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding," Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. "We affirm 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… In our judicial system, 'the public has a right to every man's evidence.' Since the earliest days of the republic, 'every man' has included the president of the United States.”
Kavanaugh and Gorsuch issued a concurrent opinion similarly rejecting Trump’s immunity claim but arguing that he could make more legitimate arguments on remand.
Courts punts on Congress:
The court also issued a 7-2 ruling, with the same justices on either side, to send the challenge to House Democrats’ subpoena for Trump’s tax returns and financial documents to the lower courts.
The court agreed that Congress has the power to subpoena the records but wants lower courts to more carefully rule on “separation of powers concerns.”
"The House's approach would leave essentially no limits on the congressional power to subpoena the president's personal records. A limitless subpoena power could transform the established practice of the political branches and allow Congress to aggrandize itself at the president's expense,” the majority opinion said, asking lower courts to "take adequate account of the separation of powers principles at stake, including both the significant legislative interests of Congress and the unique position of the president."
Trump vows to fight the case:
"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," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance said after the ruling.
"The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution," Trump tweeted. "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!"
"Courts in the past have given 'broad deference'. BUT NOT ME!" he added.