Did four conservative justices of the U.S. Supreme Court today vote to hear Donald Trump’s appeals from having his financial records and tax records produced by third parties to congressional committees and the Manhattan District Attorney in a criminal grand jury investigation to delay the production of those financial documents beyond the time set aside for the impeachment proceedings? Sure, of course they did.
The court also did not require an expedited briefing schedule to accommodate the impeachment proceedings, as occurred during the Watergate impeachment proceedings. The court scheduled this matter on its normal appeals calendar. Justice delayed is justice denied.
But this does not necessarily mean that there is a five vote majority on the court for Trump’s broadly expansive “unitary executive” theory of absolute immunity from congressional committees investigating him, his businesses, his family members, and his business associates simply because of the fact that he is currently serving as president. I continue to believe that Chief Justice John Roberts is unwilling to recognize such a radical and anti-democratic theory.
If the Supreme Court were to adopt this radical and anti-democratic theory, it would mark the end of our constitutional democracy, and the beginning of an autocratic imperial presidency in which the president is above the law.
This appeal is a “big fucking deal,” as Joe Biden might say.
Amy Howe at SCOTUSblog reports, Justices to take up battle over Trump financial documents:
This afternoon the Supreme Court announced that it would wade into the fray over access to President Donald Trump’s financial records. The justices agreed to review three separate lower-court decisions that ruled against the president: Two of those decisions upheld subpoenas that would force the president’s accounting firm and lenders to turn over financial records that they have in their possession, while a third ordered the president’s accounting firm to provide prosecutors in New York City with his financial records, including his tax returns.
The subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, came from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, while the subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and Capital One, two of Trump’s lenders, came from the House Financial Services and Intelligence Committees. The committees said that they wanted the records as part of their work, but Trump argued that the subpoenas do not serve a “legitimate legislative purpose,” as the Supreme Court’s cases require.
The subpoena from Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance also went to Mazars. As Steve Vladeck has previously reported for this blog, Vance is seeking several years’ worth of Trump’s tax returns as part of a state grand-jury investigation. After the lower courts rejected his efforts to quash the subpoena, Trump went to the Supreme Court, arguing that the subpoena violates the president’s absolute immunity from state criminal proceedings while he is in office.
In a brief unsigned order this afternoon, the justices announced that they would take up all three cases and hear oral argument in the court’s March argument session. The justices consolidated two of the cases, involving the congressional subpoenas, for one hour of argument. They also took the somewhat unusual step of granting review in the Deutsche Bank case without receiving a formal petition for review. Instead, the justices treated Trump’s request to put the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit decision on hold, filed last week, as a petition for review, and they stayed the lower-court decision indefinitely.
The cases will be heard in March, with rulings expected by June.
The Supreme Court’s decision to hear the cases means that after years of Trump shielding his documents, the nine justices will make the final decision on whether the records should he released. The President’s foes have sought his financial records citing a variety of investigations into hush money payments, foreign involvement in a US election, violations of the emoluments clauses and inquiries into potential violations of ethics rules.
How the court rules in the cases before them could have far-reaching implications, stretching well beyond the impeachment proceedings and the Trump era. In three cases that have made it to the Supreme Court, Trump has lost in the lower courts where judges have pointed out that other recent presidents have voluntarily disclosed their tax records.
It takes four justices to agree to take up a case, which on the nine-justice court does not mean they will ultimately rule in the President’s favor. The court ultimately ruled unanimously against President Bill Clinton in a case arising out of a civil suit, as well as in a case relating to President Richard Nixon and the Watergate tapes.
Friday’s actions add three monumental cases to an already blockbuster Supreme Court term in the heat of the presidential election. Decisions in cases involving abortion access, immigration, the 2nd Amendment and LGBT rights are also expected by this summer. [And likely the Affordable Care Act aka “Obamacare” once the Fifth Circuit issues its long-delayed ruling.]
These blockbuster court decisions tend to come in June at the end of the court’s term, which is only weeks before the Democratic National Convention in July in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It’s going to be a long hot summer.