The New York Times Company
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for prosecutors in New York to see President Donald Trump’s financial records, in a stunning defeat for Trump and a major statement on the scope and limits of presidential power.
The decision said he had no absolute right to block release of the papers and will take its place with landmark rulings that required President Richard Nixon to turn over tapes of Oval Office conversations and forced President Bill Clinton to provide evidence in a sexual harassment suit.
“No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority.
He added that Trump may still raise objections to the scope and relevance of the subpoena. Litigation over those new objections could last many months or longer.
In a separate decision the court ruled that Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. It said the case should be returned to a lower court to narrow the parameters of the information it sought.
The chief justice wrote the majority opinions in both cases, and both were decided by 7-2 votes. The court’s four-member liberal wing voted with him, as did Trump’s two appointees, Justices Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh.
Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented in both cases.
Despite the court’s rulings, it is likely that president’s records will be shielded from public scrutiny until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely.
Trump immediately attacked the outcome on Twitter. “This is all a political prosecution.
“Courts in the past have given “broad deference”. BUT NOT ME!” he wrote.
Trump had asked the court to block both sets of subpoenas, which had sought information from Trump’s accountants and bankers, not from Trump himself; the firms have indicated that they would comply with the court’s ruling.
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.