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Home / World News / US Supreme Court denies Trump ‘immunity’, unblocks release of financial records

US Supreme Court denies Trump ‘immunity’, unblocks release of financial records

The US Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of President Donald Trump’s personal tax and financial records to New York investigators but turned down subpoenas for the same papers and information from congressional committees in a separate case.

world Updated: Jul 09, 2020 22:25 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times, Washington
US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump(Bloomberg photo)

The US Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of President Donald Trump’s personal tax and financial records to New York investigators but turned down subpoenas for the same papers and information from congressional committees in a separate case.

But the American public will not be able to see immediately the president’s tax records and financial information because they will be released to a grand jury, whose proceedings were secret. Using other legal recourse still available, the president’s lawyers can prevent the release of these records till at least the November elections.

Ruling 7-2 in both cases, the court rejected the central argument put forward by the president’s lawyers to prevent the release thee records — not from him directly, but his accountants — that US presidents enjoy complete and absolute immunity from criminal prosecution while in office.

“We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the president is neither absolutely immune from criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.” Chief Justice John Robert wrote in the majority opinion in the New York investigation case.

In the same ruling, he also wrote, “In our judicial system, ‘the public has a right to ‘everyman’s evidence’. Since the earliest days of the Republic, ‘every man’ has included the President of the United States.”

President Trump, who has refused to release his tax and financial records bucking a long-running practice for US presidents or those even running for the high office, will get to hold on to his financial records for now and until the elections at least, as his lawyers can challenge the New York investigators’ subpoenas for his records in lower courts. And his lawyers have said since that is their plan.

It was thus a win for the president also, in a way. But he did not see it that way and lashed out in a string of angry tweets. “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!” he wrote in one of them.

“Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference’., he wrote in another. “BUT NOT ME!”

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, both nominated by President Trump, ruled with the majority opinion, denying the president’s central claim of absolute immunity from prosecution.

The office of the Manhattan district attorney Cy Vance, a Democrat, had sought eight years of the president financial records form Mazars USA, his accountant, in an investigation into the payment of hush-money to Stormy Daniels, a porn star who has said she had an affair with Trump. Michael Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and fixer who is in jail for it, had paid her not to talk about the relationship in the run-up to the 2016 election, and was reimbursed by the president later.

The second case was about subpoenas issued separately by the oversight committee and the intelligence committee of the House of Representatives that are also investigating the Stormy Daniels payments and whether Trump underreported his assets to reduce his tax liabilities, or inflated them overplay his worth to obtain loans. The Supreme Court ordered the House committees to go back to lower courts to get these records.

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