The Supreme Court on Monday refused to step in to stop the turnover of its tax records to a New York lawyer in a major setback for former President Donald Trump.
The decision of the court is the obvious result of a long legal battle which once before had already entered the high court.
As part of the prosecutor’s criminal investigation, Trump’s tax returns are not expected to become public, but the decision by the high court is a blow to Trump because he has struggled on so many fronts for so long to keep his tax records hidden from view.
In his life after the presidency, the continuing investigation may also become a subject for Trump. Trump referred to it as “a fishing expedition” and “a continuation of the witch hunt — the greatest witch hunt in history” In order to proceed in the event, the Supreme Court waited months. On October 19, the last of the written briefs in the case was filed. But Trump’s appeal to his defeat and a month after Trump left office before issuing his order, a court that includes three Trump appointees waited through the election.
No reason for the delay was given by the court, and the legal question before the justices did not include whether Trump owed any special deference because he was president.
For Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who has been pursuing Trump’s tax returns as part of an investigation since 2019, the court’s order is a victory. The records of the Mazars accounting company that has long done work for Trump and his companies were subpoenaed by Vance, a Democrat. Mazars said it would comply with the warrant, but Trump, a Republican, sued to obstruct the release of the documents. In the event that the Supreme Court failed to step in to avoid the turnover of the records, Vance’s office said it would be able to enforce the subpoena and obtain the records, but it was unclear when that could happen.
A grand jury subpoena for more than eight years of Trump’s personal and corporate tax records covers the case in which the high court ruled. Nothing was revealed by Vance on what inspired him to request the papers. However, in one court filing last year, prosecutors said they were justified in seeking the documents due to media accounts of “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organisation”
Part of the investigation includes payments to two women, porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, to keep them quiet during the presidential campaign of 2016 about alleged Trump extramarital affairs. Trump has denied the affairs.
In July, Trump’s claim that the president is immune from prosecution when he holds office or that a prosecutor must demonstrate a greater need than usual to obtain tax documents was dismissed by the justices in a 7-2 ruling. The decision was supported by Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, who Trump named to the high court. It was released before the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was succeeded in court by Trump’s third pick, Justice Amy Coney Barrett.
The high court returned the Vance case and a related case involving documents requested by Congress to the lower courts as part of its July ruling. And as the cases continued, the tribunal prohibited the documents from being handed over.
After the high court’s decision, Trump’s lawyers made additional claims in the Vance case that his tax returns could not be handed over, but they lost again in New York federal court and on appeal. Such were the actions Trump had tried to put on hold.