Saturday, December 14, 2019


In this case, there's only one possible outcome:
The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether President Trump can block the release of his financial records, setting the stage for a blockbuster ruling on the power of presidents to resist demands for information from prosecutors and Congress.

The court’s ruling, expected by June, could require disclosure of information the president has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect. Or the justices could rule that Mr. Trump’s financial affairs are not legitimate subjects of inquiry so long as he remains in office....

The court said that arguments would be held over two hours in late March or early April, but it did not specify the date.
There's no need to subject this to a fine-grained legal analysis. Just consider: Would the Court take this case if there was the slightest possibility of a ruling against Trump five months before an election he might lose? Do the Republican justices want to run the risk putting Trump reelection in jeopardy?

I'm not saying that Roberts will never rule against the GOP in any case. I believe he'll once again be the fifth vote to uphold Obamacare next year. But he'll do that because depriving millions of people of their healthcare before an election would be bad for Trump and other Republican candidates. It would infuriate Democratic voters.

A vote allowing Trump to play keepaway with his financial records would just continue the status quo in the Trump era -- it would appall politically engaged Democrats, but it wouldn't touch ordinary Americans' lives the way a sudden upending of the healthcare system would. So of course the FedSoc Five will do Trump's bidding.

But isn't there Court precedent for ordering the release of presidential documents?
In earlier Supreme Court cases in which presidents sought to avoid providing evidence, ... the court was unanimous in ruling against Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton....
The Republican Supremes will just have to find a way to argue that this is totally different.

One subpoena the Court is considering is from Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr., who wants financial records from Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, as part of an investigation of Trump and his company's role in hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. The William Barr Justice Department, of course, has filed a pro-Trump brief:
“Leaving local prosecutors with unfettered authority to issue such subpoenas creates a serious risk that those prosecutors — prioritizing local concerns and disregarding significant federal interests — may subject the president to highly burdensome demands for information,” the brief said.

The solution, according to the Justice Department, is to insist that the prosecutors show that the information sought is essential to a pending criminal case and that it cannot be obtained elsewhere. To date, the brief said, Mr. Vance has made neither showing.
Agreeing with this premise seems like a fairly easy way for the Supremes to quash the subpoena without seeming to go against the Nixon and Clinton precedents.

The two other subpoenas being considered by the Court are from House committees. The House Oversight Committee is seeking records from Mazars as part of an investigation of the hush money and of Trump's practice of inflating property values when seeking loans and deflating them when preparing tax forms. The Financial Services Committee is seeking records from two banks that have done business with Trump. A three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Oversight Committee's request, but it was a split decision:
In dissent, Judge Neomi J. Rao, appointed by Mr. Trump, wrote that “allegations of illegal conduct against the president cannot be investigated by Congress except through impeachment.”
That seems like an easy out for the Court, given that Trump will already have been impeached for a different set of offenses by the time the Court hears the case. Oops! If you wanted documents related to this behavior, you should have been trying to impeach Trump for it!

The downside of using that line of reasoning will be that the Court might feel obliged to require the production of documents the next time there's an impeachment (possibly of Trump again if he's reelected). But that would be a problem for another day.

In any case, I'm absolutely certain that the Court will rule in Trump's favor. It's unimaginable that Roberts and the rest of the Federalists would give Democrats electoral ammunition, whatever the Constitution might seem to require.

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