Donald Trump scored a tactical victory from the Supreme Court that will likely keep his personal financial records out of public view through the November election, but he framed Thursday’s two rulings as a loss imposed by his enemies.
The president was rebuffed in his broader effort to establish that a president can’t be forced to give in to the demands of Congress and prosecutors, prompting a series of angry tweets in which he lashed out at Democrats and at the court.
In practical terms, the court effectively ensured that voters won’t see potentially embarrassing documents from his bank and accounting firms at least for months to come.
Rather than claim partial vindication, as did his personal attorney Jay Sekulow, Trump seized on the rulings to bolster one of his favorite political themes — that he’s an outsider fighting against a “deep state” that even includes a Supreme Court with a conservative majority.
“Courts in the past have given “broad deference,” he tweeted. “BUT NOT ME!”
The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. 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!
Critics have said those records — including tax returns that past presidential candidates made public voluntarily — would show that Trump has overstated his net worth to promote his image as a billionaire developer, understated it for tax purposes and engaged in hush-money payments to women who alleged they had affairs with him.
The justices sent back to lower courts a case about the House’s demands for his financial records, doubtless delaying a resolution of that dispute well past the election. Although they refused to give Trump the categorical immunity he sought from a New York grand jury subpoena for his tax returns, they allowed the president to pursue “subpoena-specific constitutional challenges” in federal district court.
“We’re basically starting all over again, sending everything back down to the lower courts,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “Frankly, this is another political witch hunt, the likes of which nobody’s ever seen before.”
Even if Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance succeeds in winning access to the documents, they would be turned over under grand jury rules that will keep them secret at least as long as an investigation continues.
With his approval ratings sagging months into a coronavirus pandemic that has decimated the economy and left 134,000 Americans dead, Trump is waging anti-establishment battles on multiple fronts, from overruling the conclusions of his own public health experts to denouncing efforts to remove Confederate iconography from public spaces.
His goal is to replicate his surprise 2016 victory, when he battled back from dismal poll numbers to narrowly win the presidency thanks to a dedicated and enthusiastic core of supporters alienated by the status quo.
He depicted the bid by Vance as only the latest in a line of politically motivated bids to delegitimize his presidency.
He called it “a second, third, and fourth try” after the special counsel investigation led by Robert Mueller and an impeachment effort led by Democrats hadn’t succeeded.
“Now the Supreme Court gives a delay ruling that they would never have given for another President,” he wrote in a series of tweets. ”This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT.”
The subtext of the president’s complaints was made plain by his conclusion, that “despite this, I have done more than any President in history in first 3 1/2 years!”
The Supreme Court’s rulings defer but don’t necessarily eliminate the pain for Trump – particularly if he wins re-election. If Vance is able to convince a grand jury that there’s reason to believe Trump acted illegally, a second term may be at least partially defined by a continuing investigation of the president’s hush money payments.
The court also laid out specific criteria for lawmakers seeking access to the president’s financial records – with House Democrats already indicating they will press for Trump’s records under just such terms.
House Speaker Pelosi Holds Weekly News Conference
Nancy PelosiPhotographer: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg
“The path that the Supreme Court has laid out is clearly achievable by us,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday, adding that the ruling was “not good news for the president.”
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