The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the decks for prosecutors to see President Donald Trump’s financial records -- a massive jolt for the latter. But the records, which his bank and accountants are now obliged to share, will be shielded from public scrutiny until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely. Trump had fought to keep them under the wraps saying as president he was absolutely immune from investigation.
In a separate decision, the court ruled the Congress, at least for now, can't access Trump records. To that extent, the 7-2 outcome is at least a short-term partial victory for Trump.
The decision came after the court upheld the prosecutor's demand that Trump must hand over his tax returns as part of a criminal investigation that includes hush-money payments to women who claim they had affairs with the president.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion while two judges dissented. In the case concerning the prosecutors’ summons, the Chief Justice wrote that “no citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.” He added that Trump may still raise objections to the scope and relevance of the summons.
Trump’s lawyers had argued that he was immune from all criminal proceedings and investigations so long as he remained in office and that Congress was powerless to obtain his records because it had no legislative need for them.
Trump immediately reacted by slamming the justices and claiming he was being singled out by them tweeting: ‘‘Courts in the past have given 'broad deference. BUT NOT ME!’’ Trump claimed he would launch a new fight against the summons but offered no clue how.
House Democrats and New York prosecutors said the records may shed light on Trump’s foreign entanglements, possible conflicts of interest, whether he has paid his taxes and whether his hush money payments violated campaign finance laws.
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, gloated after the ruling that Trump's own judges had turned against him. ‘‘The Supreme Court — including the president's appointees — have declared he is not above the law,’’ Pelosi told reporters after the ruling. ‘‘It is not good news for the president of the United States,’’ she added.
It is alleged that the president engaged in 'dubious’ tax schemes during the 1990s, involving instances of outright fraud that greatly increased the fortune he received from his parents.