2020-05-12 17:03:20 UTC
...including conservatives as they hear his bid to keep his tax returns secret
claiming Democrats are pursuing 'endless harassment'
*The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments in a major showdown over
*Congress and the Manhattan DA sought to pry loose Trump's tax returns from an
*Trump is contesting law that allows Congress to access tax return information
*Subpoenas went to Mazars LLP accounting firm and two banks, Deutsche Bank and
*Trump during the campaign said he would release his tax returns but has not
*U.S. presidents going back four decades have put out returns voluntarily
A lawyer for President Donald Trump argued that he should be 'immune' from being
subject to a subpoena by a district attorney as his effort to fight off
investigatory efforts by Congress and prosecutors faced challenge in the U.S.
'Temporary presidential immunity is constitutionally required by Article Two and
accordingly the Supremacy Clause defeats any authority the DA has under state
law as to the president,' Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow told court justices in the
second of two cases hear by phone.
'If not reversed, the decision weaponizes 2,300 local DAs to harass, distract
and interfere with a sitting president,' Sekulow argued, seeking to overturn a
decision by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals.
'This is not mere speculation. It is precisely what has taken place with this
He made his case for immunity as justices considered grand jury subpoenas from
New York seeking Trump records.
Earlier Tuesday, the Court heard oral arguments in a case that has brought a
constitutional clash between Congress and the presidency over Donald Trump's tax
returns with conservative justices quizzing the president's lawyer about
whether Congress has any valid role in getting presidential information.
Trump and the administration are fighting subpoenas from Congress and the
Manhattan District Attorney seeking to obtain years worth of Trump tax return
information which the president has refused make public voluntarily.
'Why should we not defer to the House's views about its own legislative
purposes?' asked Justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, after an attorney
representing the president repeatedly criticized the language of House
Chief Justice John Roberts also pressed the president's lawyer, Patrick
Strawbridge, who said the needs of Congress in the case are 'auxiliary and
subordinate' and that it 'must yield' to presidential prerogatives to be
protected form harassment.
'Do you concede any power in the House to subpoena personal papers of the
president?' Roberts asked him.
Strawbridge said it was hard to imagine the House 'is ever going to have the
power pursuant to its legislative powers to subpoena the records of the
He argued that if Congress is allowed to force entities to hand over tax returns
from before the president took office, it would open the door to 'endless
subpoenas and harassment.'
On the one hand, Roberts expressed skepticism that Congress had no authority to
issue a subpoena or that a court could second guess its motivations to do so,
while also doubting that congressional power was limitless.
'Should a court be probing the mental processes of legislators? Should members
of House committees be subject to cross examination on why you were really
seeking these documents?' Roberts asked Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Wall.
The House has invoked its constitutional authority to legislate as the basis for
getting access to years of Trump tax return information but Trump lawyers and
the government, representing the White House, argue that the legislative purpose
was being used as a fig leaf for a probe.
The Supreme Court has a 5-4 majority including two justices appointed by Trump.
He has won key victories at the high court including over his hardline
immigration policies but lost a big case a year ago regarding the U.S. census
when conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's four liberals.
In the three cases being argued on Tuesday, Trump has sought to prevent
enforcement of subpoenas issued to his long-time accounting firm Mazars LLP and
two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, for financial records including tax
returns. Lower courts in Washington and New York ruled against Trump in all
Trump, unlike other recent presidents, has declined to release his tax returns
and other financial records that could shed light on his net worth and the
activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.
Rulings are likely within weeks, with Trump seeking re-election on Nov. 3 amid
the coronavirus pandemic. The cases will be heard in two separate arguments by
teleconference, a format adopted during the pandemic.