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Court ruling will stop Trump rivals seeing tax returns before election


Temporary reprieve: US President Donald Trump has succeeded in keeping his finances a private matter until after the November election

Temporary reprieve: US President Donald Trump has succeeded in keeping his finances a private matter until after the November election

Temporary reprieve: US President Donald Trump has succeeded in keeping his finances a private matter until after the November election

The US Supreme Court issued a mixed verdict yesterday on demands for President Donald Trump's financial records that will keep his tax returns, banking and other documents out of the public eye for the time being.

The court rejected broad arguments by Mr Trump's lawyers and the justice department that the president is immune from investigation while he holds office or that a prosecutor must show a greater need than normal to obtain the records.

By seven votes to two, the justices upheld the Manhattan district attorney's demand for Mr Trump's tax returns, but kept a hold on the businessman's financial records, that Congress has been seeking for more than a year.

Mr Trump, the only president in modern times who has refused to make his tax returns public, didn't immediately regard the outcome as a victory, even though it is likely to prevent his opponents in Congress from obtaining potentially embarrassing personal and business records ahead of election day.

The documents have the potential to reveal details on everything from possible misdeeds to the true nature of the president's vaunted wealth - not to mention uncomfortable disclosures about how he's spent his money and how much he's given to charity.

"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!" Mr Trump lashed out on Twitter.

The rejection of the leader's claims of presidential immunity marked the latest instance where Mr Trump's broad assertion of executive power has been rejected.

Mr Trump's two high court appointees, justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, joined the majority in both cases, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and the four liberal justices. Mr Roberts wrote both opinions.

"Congressional subpoenas for information from the president, however, implicate special concerns regarding the separation of powers. The courts below did not take adequate account of those concerns," Mr Roberts wrote in the congressional case.

The ruling returns the case to lower courts, with no clear prospect for when it might ultimately be resolved.

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The tax returns case also is headed back to a lower court, but Mr Trump's major arguments have now been rejected. Because the grand jury process is confidential, Mr Trump's taxes normally would not be made public.

Justice Samuel Alito, who dissented with justice Clarence Thomas in both cases, warned that future presidents would suffer because of the decision about Mr Trump's taxes.

"While the decision will of course have a direct effect on President Trump, what the court holds today will also affect all future presidents - which is to say, it will affect the presidency, and that is a matter of great and lasting importance to the nation."

Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr said his investigation, on hold while the court fight played out, will now resume.

"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," Mr Vance said.

The case was argued by telephone in May because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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 DC, 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 Nixon to turn over White House tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor and in allowing a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bill 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.

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