The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that President Trump is not immune from a subpoena over his financial and tax records to Democratic Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., who has subpoenaed the records as part of a criminal investigation into potential wrongdoing by the president and his organization.
The Supreme Court has thrown the case of whether state grand juries can access to Trump’s personal tax records back to the lower court, sidestepping the broader issue for now.
The ruling is a blow to the president, who has resisted disclosing his tax returns and other similar records since the 2016 presidential campaign. It also cements, with a judgment from the highest court in the land, that sitting presidents can be at least criminally investigated and subpoenaed while in office under the Constitution.
Vance had argued in a brief that “[t]he subpoenas seek records, dating from 2011 to the present, concerning transactions that are unrelated to any official acts of the President, and that occurred largely before Petitioner assumed office.”
He also noted that among the potential criminal issues the president is under investigation for is alleged “hush money” given to women that he had affairs with, which may have equated to a campaign finance violation in which Trump was complicit.
Trump used personal lawyers rather than White House lawyers for both cases. Those lawyers made a sweeping argument about the level of immunity a president enjoys while in office.
A brief from Trump’s lawyers notes an Office of Legal Counsel opinion that the president cannot be indicted while in office, but goes even further to essentially argue that he cannot be subject to any form of criminal investigation.
“Under Article II, the Supremacy Clause, and the overall structure of our Constitution, the President of the United States cannot be ‘subject to the criminal process’ while he is in office,” it reads.
Trump’s lawyers also argued that letting prosecutors — especially local prosecutors — to investigate and potentially bring criminal action against the president steps on Congress’ impeachment power; that allowing localities to subpoena the president would essentially give them the power to coerce the chief executive into instituting their favored policies; and that the threat of criminal prosecution attached to grand jury subpoenas could distract the president from his duties.
The Thursday morning ruling, which came on…
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