President Donald Trump lost twice in court on Thursday when the Supreme Court rejected his sweeping arguments that the president is immune from investigation and subpoena by both Congress and state grand juries. But in a loss for the public, the records being subpoenaed ― which could reveal his tax returns and potential crimes including tax evasion, money laundering and executive branch disclosure violations ― are almost certain to remain hidden until after the election.
The two blockbuster cases, Trump v. Vance and Trump v. Mazars USA, were total losses for Trump, but a more mixed result for the Office of the President of the United States. Trump’s lawyers had argued that the president has a total immunity from subpoenas for his personal records from either an empaneled grand jury or a congressional committee. The court completely rejected these arguments in both cases by 7-2 margins in decisions written by Chief Justice John Roberts. But it set different limits for Congress than for judicial proceedings like a grand jury while enabling Trump to hide his records from public scrutiny during what remains of his first term with continued lower court battles.
In the Vance case, the court upheld the subpoena to Mazars USA LLP, Trump’s personal accounting firm, issued by a grand jury empaneled by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. The court affirmed prior precedent that “the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.” While the court set no new standard for Vance’s subpoena, it ordered the case back to a district court, where the president’s lawyers could change their now-defeated argument to prevent the disclosure.
While the Vance case related to a state judicial proceeding, the Mazars case focused on a separation of powers dispute between two political branches of government. It was the first time the court had “considered a dispute over a...