The United States Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that President Donald Trump must hand over his financial records to New York prosecutors, but temporarily blocked the Democrat-led House of Representatives from accessing the same documents.
The rulings mark a short-term victory for Trump, as they are likely to allow him to keep his finances private until after the November presidential election.
Both 7-2 rulings were authored by conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.
In one, the court ruled against Trump in a case brought by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat who is seeking eight years of the president’s financial documents in connection with an alleged “hush money” payment made to the pornographic actress who goes by the moniker Stormy Daniels.
Trump’s attorneys had earlier argued that the president was immune from criminal investigation — a claim which the court struck down.
Vance tweeted that the ruling was “a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one — not even a president — is above the law.”
“Our investigation, which was delayed for almost a year by this lawsuit, will resume, guided as always by the grand jury’s solemn obligation to follow the law and the facts, wherever they may lead,” Vance said.
The decision means that a subpoena issued to Trump’s long-term accounting firm, Mazars LLP, for the records in question to be turned over to a grand jury can be enforced.
However, even if Trump’s financial records are turned over to prosecutors by Mazars, they may remain hidden from public view because of grand jury secrecy. Additionally, the court must first request the records before they can be released — a process likely to take some time.
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Back to the lower courts
In the other ruling, regarding a congressional request for his tax returns, the Supreme Court sent the case back to a lower court for further consideration — giving the president a short reprieve prior to the election.
The top court cited concerns over separation of powers and indicated that more specific reasons needed to be included in demands for such information.
“Congressional subpoenas for information from the President, however, implicate special concerns regarding the separation of powers. The courts below did not take adequate account of those concerns,” Roberts wrote.
In addition to requesting documents from Mazars, the House committees also want records from Deutsche Bank and Capital One. In a statement, Deutsche Bank said it “will of course abide by a final decision by the courts.”
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Following the rulings, Trump sent out a series of tweets, calling the Manhattan district attorney’s victory a case of “prosecutorial misconduct.”
Nancy Pelosi, Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, said she would continue to call for Trump’s financial records to be handed over to Congress, saying that a “careful reading” of the ruling showed it was “not good news for President Trump.”
“Congress’ constitutional responsibility to uncover the truth continues, specifically related to the president’s Russia connection that he is hiding,” Pelosi said in a statement.
lc/msh (dpa, AP, Reuters)