SUPREME COURT

Supreme Court: NY Can Subpoena Trump Taxes, Congress on Hold

Both Supreme Court judgments portended continued litigation without an immediate resolution, though

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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a New York grand jury can subpoena President Trump's tax returns, but separately said lower courts needed to reconsider whether Congress could subpoena his financial records.

The 7-2 ruling in the New York grand jury case, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, says "Article II and the Supremacy Clause do not categorically preclude, or require a heightened standard for, the issuance of a state criminal subpoena to a sitting President."

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, whose office fought for the records, celebrated the ruling.

“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. 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," Vance said in a statement.

But the ruling does not mean a box of paperwork is on its way to the courthouse. Instead, the Supreme Court remanded the case to lower courts and said President Trump could raise new arguments there, suggesting any ultimate resolution is still far off.

The separate decision on congressional subpoenas for the president's financial records, also a 7-2 judgement written by Chief Justice Roberts, appeared to be somewhat more of a win for the president.

The Supreme Court held that lower courts did not properly consider the separation-of-powers implications in Congress issuing subpoenas for the president's personal financial information, and ordered the case returned to those courts for further consideration with that standard in mind.

President Trump took to Twitter shortly after the rulings to say the situation was "not fair" to him or his administration.


Read the Supreme Court's ruling in Trump v. Vance below:

Read the Supreme Court's ruling in Trump v. Mazars (the congressional subpoenas case) below:


The high-stakes dispute tested the balance of power between the White House and Congress, as well as Trump's claim that he can't be investigated while he holds office.

It's unclear, even if Trump loses, how much of the material would become public since some records would go to a confidential grand-jury investigation in New York and the rest, sought by committees of the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, could contain highly sensitive information not just about Trump, but also about other members of his family and businesses.

Trump had so far lost at every step, but the records were not turned over pending a final court ruling.

The fight over the congressional subpoenas has significant implications regarding a president’s power to refuse a formal request from Congress. In a separate fight at the federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., over a congressional demand for the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn, the administration is making broad arguments that the president’s close advisers are “absolutely immune” from having to appear.

In two earlier cases over presidential power, the Supreme Court acted unanimously in requiring President Richard Nixon to turn over White House tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor and in allowing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Clinton to go forward.

In those cases, three Nixon appointees and two Clinton appointees, respectively, voted against the president who chose them for the high court. A fourth Nixon appointee, William Rehnquist, sat out the tapes case because he had worked closely as a Justice Department official with some of the Watergate conspirators whose upcoming trial spurred the subpoena for the Oval Office recordings.

There are two Trump appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, on the court. Both ruled with the majority in both the New York and congressional cases.

The subpoenas are not directed at Trump himself. Instead, House committees want records from Deutsche Bank, Capital One and the Mazars USA accounting firm. Mazars also is the recipient of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s subpoena.

Appellate courts in Washington, D.C., and New York brushed aside the president’s arguments in decisions that focused on the fact that the subpoenas were addressed to third parties asking for records of Trump’s business and financial dealings as a private citizen, not as president.

Two congressional committees subpoenaed the bank documents as part of their investigations into Trump and his businesses. Deutsche Bank has been one of the few banks willing to lend to Trump after a series of corporate bankruptcies and defaults starting in the early 1990s.

Vance and the House Oversight and Reform Committee sought records from Mazars concerning Trump and his businesses based on payments that Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged to keep two women from airing their claims of decade-old extramarital affairs with Trump during the 2016 presidential race.

NBC New York / The Associated Press
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