The U.S. Supreme Court decided two landmark rulings on presidential power yesterday that settled the question of the range of the executive branch.
In a 7-2 ruling on both matters, the Court ruled Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. can subpoena Mazars USA, an accounting firm hired by Trump, for his financial records as it pertains to an investigation into hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal prior to the 2016 election.
Both women alleged that they had affairs with Trump many years ago and Vance is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records to hide payments to both women. Trump has denied the affairs and the payments, which he claimed came from his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.
Cohen is currently serving a three-year sentence in New York after pleading guilty to lying to Congress, tax charges and two campaign finance charges for facilitating the payments to Daniels and McDougal.
In the second case, the court also returned subpoena requests to lower courts in the matter of the U.S. House of Representatives investigations by three congressional committees probing possible conflicts of interest after testimony by Cohen regarding possible money laundering and foreign influence as it was tied to Russia. Trump challenged the ability of the House Intelligence Committee, the House Oversight Committee and the House Financial Services Committees to subpoena Mazars, Deutsche Bank and other possible financial institution as part of congressional investigations.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:
“No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding. We reaffirm 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.”
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito, Jr. dissented in both matters and Trump appointees Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh voted with the majority on both issues.
The Supreme Court ruling strengthened Congress’ investigative power but said it must limit a probe into presidential information — as a part of a case study for general legislation if other sources are available. Member of Congress are also expected to focus requests so that it can detail how presidential information will advance possible legislation.
The controversial rulings did not allow either party immediate access to the billionaire land developer’s financial records and instead returned both cases to lower courts for further remediation. The move is expected to allow Trump to continue to hide his finances from the American people, even as he runs for a second term as president in November.
Trump is the only president in modern times to not open his financial records for public disclosure. Trump and his legal team have held American presidents have “absolute immunity” to prosecution under Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution. He has publicly stated he can do whatever he wants because he is president.
Both rulings end the possibility of Trump, or any future president, asserting immunity from prosecution because of holding the office. In the matter of Trump it resonated that he does not have immunity whether or not he is elected anew on Nov. 3, 2020.
Trump’s dissatisfaction was almost immediate and served as the part of a presidential pity party regarding how unfairly he is treated by the American system.
Trump’s foul mood began just before 9 a.m. and ran the gamut from rants about the 3 million coronavirus infections in the United States to how he still believes his successful 2016 campaign was spied on by the previous administration, which he deemed “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT,” and prosecutorial misconduct.
However, Trump’s social media posts shifted at 10:38 a.m. when he began mulling the ruling by the Supreme Court. Our whiner-in-chief voiced buyer’s remorse over his Supreme Court picks in a Twitter-tantrum for the ages. Tweeting six times from shortly after the ruling at to 10:38 a.m. to 12:14 p.m., he accused the Supreme Court of not treating him fairly; said the administration of former President Barack Obama was “totally corrupt”; and accused the Supreme Court as acting with deference to Obama personally.
“The Supreme Court sends back to Lower Court, argument 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 tweet, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, had a different view:
Because the Manhattan case involves a grand jury, many believe the ruling will allow Trump to prevent either matter from being a factor in the November 2020 election. Those who share that opinion hailed the Supreme Court ruling a victory for Trump. Others have said the ruling created a “mixed bag” at best, and do not believe Trump will be charged with any crime before the election.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, (D-Ca.) called the ruling a win for the U.S. Constitution. She said it was especially noteworthy that Trump’s two Supreme Court appointees “affirmed that President Trump in not above the law (and) recognized Congress’s (sic) constitutional authority to conduct oversight.”
Neal Katyal, former acting U.S. solicitor general under Obama, described the ruling as “scary,” for Trump:
“It’s not a mixed bag. Serious loss for Trump and his (Supreme Court) appointees rejected his immunity arguments as made up. (The) NY case can be expedited and decided before the election.”
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said despite the high court ruling, Trump still believes he has absolute immunity in criminal matters and therefore can do whatever he wants and not disclose any of the requested information:
“Where the President stands, is he still maintains his initial position and he agrees with Justice Thomas in his dissent.”
She later said of Trump, that he “takes issue with the point that the majority made on absolute immunity.” McEnany described Trump’s belief that he has absolute immunity from the law as a “legal term of art.”
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said both matters face constitutional challenges in the lower courts in the future.