Overview of Trump's finacial records handing to prosecutor under newly rules by Supreme Court

The Supreme Court has ruled that a district attorney in Manhattan can seek Donald Trump‘s tax and financial records from his accounting firm, a move that could be a blow against the president and his New York-based business.
July 10, 2020 | 10:14
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President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump (Photo: AFP)

The court rejected broad arguments by 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 tax records, Independent said.

"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," Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.

But it is unclear when a lower court judge might order Vance's subpoena to be enforced, as the tax returns case is now headed back to a lower court. Because the grand jury process is confidential, Trump's taxes normally would not be made public.

In the congressional case, the justices also said that Congress has significant, but not limitless, power to demand the president's personal information, according to CBC.ca.

Cyrus Vance's tweet on Thursday evening
Cyrus Vance's tweet on Thursday evening (Photo: Captured)

The court's rules

Each case was decided by a 7-2 vote.

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. Roberts wrote both opinions.

As reported by DW, in one, the court ruled against Trump in a case brought by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat who is seeking eight years of the president's financial documents in connection with an alleged "hush money" payment made to the pornographic actress who goes by the moniker Stormy Daniels. 

"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 said. 

However, even if Trump's financial records are turned over to prosecutors by Mazars, they may remain hidden from public view because of grand jury secrecy. Additionally, the court must first request the records before they can be released — a process likely to take some time.

In the other ruling, regarding a congressional request for his tax returns, the Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court for further consideration — giving the president a short reprieve prior to the election. 

The top court cited concerns over separation of powers and indicated that more specific reasons needed to be included in demands for such information.

"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," Roberts wrote.

In addition to requesting documents from Mazars, the House committees also want records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One. In a statement, Deutsche Bank said it "will of course abide by a final decision by the courts."

Following the rulings, Trump sent out a series of tweets, calling the Manhattan district attorney's victory a case of "prosecutorial misconduct."

Trump's tweet on Thursday
Trump's tweet on Thursday (Photo: Captured)

Nancy Pelosi, Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said she would continue to call for Trump's financial records to be handed over to Congress, saying that a "careful reading" of the ruling showed it was "not good news for President Trump."

Trump team to continue legal battle

Lawyer Jay Sekulow, who argued on Trump's behalf before the Supreme Court with respect to the New York case, said he was pleased with the decisions.

"The Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the president's financial records," Sekulow said. "We will now proceed to raise additional constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts."

Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented in both cases, with Alito warning that future presidents would suffer because of the decision about Trump's taxes.

Thomas said if Congress wanted to pursue an investigation into the president and seek documents, it could proceed under its impeachment powers.

During Trump's recent impeachment by the House over his actions pressuring Ukraine, however, committees were often stymied by the administration in their request for documents or witnesses, CBC.ca said.

Bank, accounting firm reviewing obligations

The subpoenas by the Democratic-led committees are not directed at Trump himself. Instead, the committees are requesting records from Deutsche Bank, Capital One and the Mazars USA accounting firm.

Vance and the House's oversight and reform committee are seeking records from Mazars concerning Trump and his businesses based on payments that Trump's former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged to keep two women — Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — from airing their claims of decade-old extramarital affairs with Trump during the 2016 presidential race.

Vance's inquiry is said to be examining whether the payments or reimbursements broke any state laws. Carey Dunne, Vance's general counsel, had argued in earlier hearings that delays were onerous, as there were statute of limitations considerations with respect to some potential charges.

Attorney Lanny Davis, who has represented Cohen in the past, said on social media that Cohen was pleased by the decisions.

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