Donald Trump lost both tax cases today in front of SCOTUS, but he won when it comes to delaying the now inevitable release of whatever criminal information in his returns until after the election.
The Supreme Court on Thursday rejected President Trump’s assertion that he enjoys absolute immunity while in office, allowing a New York prosecutor to pursue a subpoena of the president’s private and business financial records.
In a separate case, the court sent a fight over congressional subpoenas for the material back to lower courts because of “significant separation of powers concerns.”
“In our judicial system, ‘the public has a right to every man’s evidence,’” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote in the New York case, citing an ancient maxim. “Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the President of the United States.”
In both cases, the justices ruled 7 to 2, with Trump nominees Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh joining the majorities. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.
While the court said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. had the authority to subpoena the records from Trump’s private accounting firm, it also sent the case back to a district court for more work.
The information is part of a grand jury investigation, so the joint decisions dash the hopes of Trump opponents that the information will be available to the public before the election.
Vance is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records to conceal hush payments to two women, including pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels, who claimed they had sex with Trump before he took office. Trump has denied those claims.
Vance is seeking Trump’s tax returns, among other records. The president has refused to make them public, unlike previous modern presidents. Because the records are for a grand jury investigation, they would not likely be disclosed before the election.
So both cases will go back to lower courts for ruling based on the test criteria outlined by Chief Justice Roberts in both decisions, meaning that while the cases will go on, they will go on long after November's election.
Trump is probably in real trouble at the state level. He could be indicted, depending on how NY's state courts rule, but that won't happen until next year at the earliest.
As far as the House Democratic subpoenas go, those too go back to a lower court, will be made moot when Congress adjourns in January, and the process will have to start 100% all over again. If Trump's still President in 2021 with a new Congress, Trump will simply tie the ruling on the specific subpoena up in court for another two years and let the subpoena expire again. Roberts gave him (and all future presidents) the road map to do just that.
Either way though, Trump lost, but effectively won, at least as far as the 2020 election goes on his clearly politically fatal tax returns. Besides, what difference would the fact that Trump's a tax cheat and criminal make to voters now, at this point, after all the criminal acts he's already performed in office so openly and brazenly?
Effectively it doesn't matter at all. But it will be used against Joe Biden next year if the GOP still controls the Senate. If not, expect Biden to be sued by red states for...something...in retaliation for the New York case against Trump.
And while politically Trump wins, legally, should he lose the election, he's now almost certainly heading for prison in New York. Keep in mind that Trump now has every reason to make sure that never happens, or he's spending the rest of his life in a prison hospital.
How far will he go to escape that fate?