In Cases On Trump Financial Records, Supreme Court Weighs Separation Of Powers
Tuesday, May 12, 2020
Updated at 2:13 p.m.
The Supreme Court heard arguments Tuesday in a pair of cases involving President Trump's financial records, decisions that could have profound consequences not only for the 2020 presidential election but also for executive power.
Both cases involve subpoenas for some of Trump's pre-presidential financial records. A pair of consolidated cases — Trump v. Mazars and Trump v. Deutsche Bank — ask whether Congress has the power to subpoena the president's personal records except during an impeachment proceeding. And a separate case — Trump v. Vance — addresses a New York grand jury subpoena for those same records in the course of a criminal investigation.
In the first set of arguments, justices pressed Trump's, the Justice Department's and congressional lawyers.
"At some point, there's a straw that breaks the camel's back," Justice Clarence Thomas said of the congressional position. "At some point, it debilitates the president."
But Justice Neil Gorsuch asked: "Why should we not defer to the House's view of its own legislative purposes?"
Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked: "How can we both protect the House's interest in obtaining information it needs to legislate, but also protect the presidency?"
In the second set of arguments, involving the New York grand jury subpoena, the justices pushed back against the arguments made by Jay Sekulow, the president's lawyer, that the president can't be investigated while he's in office.
That argument, said Justice Elena Kagan, challenges a "fundamental precept of our constitutional order is that the president is not above the law."
Lower courts ruled against Trump in all the cases, prompting an appeal from the president's private attorneys to the Supreme Court. A decision is expected by June, just in time for the presidential campaign to be moving into high gear.
The justices participated by teleconference because of social-distancing measures adopted amid the coronavirus outbreak, and the arguments were streamed live. Here's a rundown of all the cases the justices heard this week and last week.
The final arguments begin Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET and are to include a case about the Electoral College.
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