The Supreme Court dealt a major blow Thursday to President Donald Trump's efforts to block investigators from obtaining his financial records.
The court ruled 7-2 — in two separate cases — that the president cannot stop New York prosecutors from seeing his tax returns and that Congress has the right to subpoena the president's financial documents.
However, the rulings are also a partial victory for Trump because they mean the public likely won't see his closely held tax returns or financial records ahead of the November election.
Democratic lawmakers praised the decisions and said they proved "no one is above the law," while the president's defenders pointed out that no materials will be immediately turned over to investigators and that they can keep fighting against specific record requests.
Republicans also portrayed the efforts as inherently partisan, even though both Trump-appointed associate justices on the Supreme Court sided with the majority.
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Donald Trump's efforts to block New York prosecutors from obtaining his financial records, in a blockbuster 7-2 ruling that Republicans downplayed and Democrats celebrated as a "major win" for the rule of law.
In a second case, the court also ruled 7-2 that Congress has the right to subpoena the president's financial records, but it kicked the case back to the lower courts to sort out "significant separation of powers concerns."
Democratic lawmakers celebrated the decisions as victories for the rule of law, while Republicans portrayed efforts to obtain Trump's financial documents as a partisan ploy. Their claims were somewhat tempered by the fact that Supreme Court justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, both of whom are Trump appointees, sided with the majority in striking down the president's legal claims.
In the first case, Trump v. Vance, the president sued the Manhattan district attorney's office to block prosecutors from accessing eight years of his tax returns as it investigates whether the Trump Organization violated state laws connected to hush money payments made to the adult-film star Stormy Daniels.
Trump's personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, made the broad and unprecedented claim that the subpoena is invalid because Trump has "absolute immunity" from criminal prosecution or investigation while in office.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the majority opinion in the case, drove home how little traction Trump had in making the absolute immunity claim.
"Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding," Robert wrote. "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."
The 22-page majority opinion in Trump v. Vance also made it clear that Trump can still raise constitutional and legal objections to subpoenas in court, which Kavanaugh and Gorsuch emphasized in their concurring opinions.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. said in a statement following the ruling that it was 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 added.
In the second case, Trump v. Mazars USA, the president's lawyers argued that congressional subpoenas for his financial records from three House committees do not serve a legitimate legislative purpose and are instead intended to harass Trump.
Roberts' majority opinion rejected the idea Trump can avoid authorized demands for documents from lawmakers. But it also outlined several considerations that lower courts must consider before determining if such subpoenas are indeed valid.
Though both rulings are a major blow to the president's long-running efforts to shield his financial records from investigators, they do not necessarily mean the New York investigators, Congress, or the public will gain access to them any time soon, especially before the November election.
'President Trump is not king'
Thursday's ruling shows "President Trump is not king," even if he wishes it "to be true," Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
"In a devastating blow to President Trump and his enablers in the Republican party, the Supreme Court today upheld a fundamental tenet of our democracy that no one is above the law," Schumer said.
"Sadly, today's rulings are a stark reminder that while President Trump is actively undermining our democracy, Senate Republicans and Attorney General Barr are not lifting a finger to stop him—something that is not lost on the American people," Schumer added.
"A careful reading Supreme Court ruling related to the president's financial records is not good news for President Trump," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday. "The court has reaffirmed the Congress's authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people."
"No one is above the law," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler tweeted.
"The Supreme Court reaffirmed today what everyone but Donald Trump already knew: nobody is above the law – not even the President of the United States," Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said in a tweet.
"A major win. No one should be above the law — including the president of the United States," Sen. Kamala Harris of California said.
Meanwhile, former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign also signaled that it was ecstatic over the rulings.
—Justin Baragona (@justinbaragona) July 9, 2020
Trump says the rulings are a 'political prosecution' and 'not fair'
Meanwhile, Sekulow pointed to the fact that no materials from the president will be immediately turned over to investigators, and that Trump's lawyers can keep fighting against specific record requests.
"We will now proceed to raise additional Constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts," he said in a statement.
"It seems much more political than anything else," House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said in response to the court's decisions regarding Trump's finances.
Similarly, Republican Rep. Patrick McHenry, ranking member on the House Financial Services Committee, said: "The Court recognized what Republicans have said all along: this was a partisan fishing expedition."
—This Week (@ThisWeekABC) July 9, 2020
The president also sounded off on Twitter and characterized the rulings as proof of a political conspiracy against him.
"The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue," Trump tweeted. "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!"
"Courts in the past have given 'broad deference'. BUT NOT ME!" Trump said in a separate tweet.
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