Light A Candle, Knock On Wood, Turn Around Three Times, And Spit, Because SCOTUS Is Ruling On Trump's Tax Returns
And now, we wait.
Shit's goin' down.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court added another major issue to a docket already filled with blockbusters, granting cert in three cases about Donald Trump's desperate attempts to keep his tax returns from congressional committees, New York prosecutors, and the American people.
All of the cases are stayed pending a decision from the Supreme Court, meaning Trump's tax returns and other documents will remain secret for now.
Although all of the cases deal with Trump's tax returns, the legal issues they present are, for the most part, quite different. The one area where all of the cases intersect is the issue of executive power and immunity.
In Trump v. Vance , Trump is suing Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance. Vance is investigating Trump's hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, two women who had the distinct displeasure of sleeping with the orange monster: (I, for one, am glad they got cash payouts in the end.) As part of his investigation, Vance subpoenaed Trump's financial records and tax returns from Mazars USA, Trump's accounting firm.
In Trump v. Mazars , Trump is suing his own accounting firm, in an attempt to stop them from turning over Trump's tax returns to the House Oversight Committee.
And in Trump v. Deutsche Bank , Trump is suing one of his banks, in a bid to stop them from turning over his financial documents to the House Intelligence and Financial Services Committee.
There are two common threads that run throughout these cases: Trump's tax returns and the ability of various government entities to investigate a sitting president. Other than that, the cases raise different issues of federalism, statutory interpretation, and congressional powers.
Whether Trump's tax returns show the location of Jimmy Hoffa's body, Russian mob ties, or just run of the mill tax fraud, there is definitely a reason he's desperate to keep them secret. Don't forget that he's not only the first president since criminal Richard Nixon not to voluntarily release his tax returns, but the only major party candidate in that period of time not to do so. And whatever Trump's reasons are for caring so much about the secrecy of his financial records, there's no way this is a good thing for the country.
Now, look. There are any number of reasons the Supreme Court may decide to grant cert in a given case. But right now, circumstantial evidence indicates that the Court may not be inclined to rule in favor of disclosure.
In these cases, the DC Circuit and Second Circuit both ruled that that Trump's tax returns had to be turned over. There's aren't competing decisions that came to different conclusions. There is no circuit split. And while it's entirely possible that the justices simply wanted to weigh in on an issue of national importance, they generally don't grant cert just to say, "Well done!" to lower courts.
The Court's actions in the marriage equality cases highlight this phenomenon. In the fall of 2014, all federal courts of appeal to consider the issue had ruled in favor of marriage equality. The Supreme Court denied cert in seven different cases, allowing the lower court rulings to stand. It wasn't until the Sixth Circuit ruled against Mr. Obergefell, creating a circuit split, that SCOTUS decided to take up the case.
We don't have a date set for argument yet, but the three cases will be heard as part of the March 2020 term, meaning that a decision is likely to come next summer. However, the Court occasionally chooses to hold cases over, so it is possible that we won't have a resolution here until after the 2020 election. Right now, it's really all up to the nine justices on the Supreme Court, two of whom were appointed by Trump, himself.
There's a reason Trump has fought so hard to keep his tax returns from the public. We all deserve to know what it is.
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