WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court yesterday firmly rejected President Donald Trump’s argument for sweeping presidential immunity and ruled that a New York prosecutor can obtain his financial records but prevented – at least for now – Democratic-led House of Representatives committees from getting similar documents.
Both 7-2 rulings were authored by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts. The court made it clear that a sitting president cannot evade a criminal investigation, ruling that the subpoena issued to Trump’s long-term accounting firm, Mazars LLP, for various financial records to be turned over to a grand jury as part of a criminal investigation can be enforced.
But the court sidestepped a major ruling on whether three House committees could also obtain Trump financial documents under subpoena, giving Trump at least a short-term win. Litigation will now continue in lower courts in both cases.
In both rulings, Roberts was joined by the four liberal justices as well as Trump’s two conservative appointees to the court, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Conservative Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito both dissented.
“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,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, in relation to the ruling in his case.
Vance and the House committees all issued subpoenas to third parties for the records, not the Republican president himself.
Trump turned to Twitter to complain about the rulings, writing: “Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference’. BUT NOT ME!” He added, “This is all a political prosecution ... and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”
The New York case ruling does not mean the documents will be handed over immediately because of expected wrangling in lower courts. A final outcome could be delayed in both cases until after the November 3 election in which Trump is seeking a second term in office.
“We will now proceed to raise additional constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts,” said Jay Sekulow, Trump’s personal lawyer.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats would not stop investigating Trump and would press forward in seeking to enforce the subpoenas.