Thomas Gallatin / May 14, 2020

SCOTUS Considers Trump’s Taxing Questions

The justices heard two cases that seek to compel Trump to release his tax returns.

President Donald Trump has famously broken many of Washington’s expected political practices of “decorum” to the consternation of many Beltway elites. But one issue that has long stuck in the craw of Trump’s opponents is his refusal to publicize his tax returns. Repeatedly, the mainstream media reminds the American public that all previous presidential candidates since Jimmy Carter have willingly made their tax records public, insinuating that Trump’s unwillingness to do the same indicates he’s seeking to hide something criminal. Trump would no doubt have to answer some taxing questions, but the Left would also undoubtedly make mountains out of molehills.

Indeed, it is this dubious narrative that House Democrats have espoused to justify their attempt to subpoena his private financial records. Trump refused, sending the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

On Tuesday, SCOTUS heard arguments in two cases, both aimed at forcing Trump to release his tax and financial records. The first case, Trump v. Mazars, is House Democrats’ argument for subpoenaing Trump’s tax records; the second, Trump v. Vance, is regarding seeking Trump’s financial records as part of a criminal investigation.

The justices were clearly skeptical of the House Democrats’ arguments while expressing concern over balancing the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. Even leftist Justice Elena Kagan seemed reticent to the House’s position, stating, “When the Congress doesn’t seem to be looking into the president, but in a much broader topic, might there not be some heightened need for Congress to say why it is that they’re focusing on presidential records for that purpose?” It seems likely on this count the justices will rule in Trump’s favor, as it is clear that the House Democrats’ motives are purely political and they have no legal precedent to stand on.

The second case may be more up for grabs, as the subpoena of Trump’s financial records is tied to a criminal case. However, as The Wall Street Journal observes, “The Solicitor General makes a compelling argument that there should be a heightened judicial standard for criminal subpoenas directed at a sitting President including a strong showing of critical need. This is important to protect the President from harassment by 50 state Attorneys Generals and 2,300 local District Attorneys who may have political motives.” There’s a good argument that this action is also politically motivated and intended as a means to politically damage a sitting president. The rulings should come in the summer.

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