Washington (dpa) – The dispute over the release of US President Donald Trump’s financial documents has not ended even after decisions by the US Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court denied Trump “absolute immunity” and granted the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office the right to view Trump’s financial records. A second decision by the court initially prevents parliamentary committees from receiving similar documents.
The decisions were eagerly awaited four months before the presidential election. However, it is completely open if and when the public will ever learn details about Trump’s finances and tax payments.
Trump has long been trying to prevent his financial and tax records from being released by his accountant Mazars and credit institutions Deutsche Bank and Capitol One. Critics therefore suspect that he has something to hide. The issuing of financial and tax documents by senior officials has a long tradition in the United States. Presidential candidates usually already publish them in the election campaign. Trump has always rejected this.
Trump’s lawyers justified the resistance to the requested publication of documents by saying that he enjoyed immunity as president. The Supreme Court now contradicted this assumption. The court affirmed that “no citizen, not even the president,” is categorically above the general duty to provide evidence requested in criminal proceedings, as Chief Justice John Roberts said. The decision paves the way for the public prosecutor to view the documents.
The Manhattan prosecutor’s office plans to investigate Trump and his company’s tax records over an eight-year period. It’s about alleged hush money payments that Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen is said to have paid to pornstar Stormy Daniels and former Playmate Karen McDougal. Both women claim to have had affairs with Trump, which he denies.
Prosecutor Cyrus Vance said after a decision by the Supreme Court in a statement of an “enormous victory” for the country’s legal system. “Nobody – not even the president – is above the law,” he said. However, the court did not order the Mazars accountant to hand over documents to the prosecutor.
The US Democrats suffered a setback: Various committees from the House of Representatives they dominated had also tried to obtain documents relating to Trump’s finances and business with the help of so-called subpoenas – requirements under penalty of punishment. The subpoenas went to Trump’s accountant company on the one hand, and to Trump’s house bank – Deutsche Bank – and the money house Capital One on the other.
Among other things, the judges criticized the need for a more specific justification for such an approach and referred the case back to lower authorities. Courts should carefully examine whether Congress’s legislative intentions warrant the involvement of the President and his records, it said.
The chairwoman of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, nevertheless spoke of bad news for the Republican Trump. The Supreme Court confirmed Parliament’s right to control the government, but asked for additional information on how to proceed, Pelosi said. Leading Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer said: “No matter how much he wishes it to be true, President Trump is not a king.” The Supreme Court has “confirmed a fundamental principle of our democracy”. The Democrats hoped that the documents would provide them with information about Trump’s possible connections to people abroad or conflicts of interest.
Although Trump can initially be certain that details of his documents will not be released to the public, the President has been annoyed by the Supreme Court’s decisions. “This is all political persecution,” Trump wrote on Twitter. The Supreme Court would never have ruled in the case of another president.
Just a few minutes before the decisions were announced, Trump had complained on Twitter about “harassment” of the president and “prosecutorial misconduct”. His lawyer Jay Sekulow, on the other hand, was pleased. He announced on Twitter that the legal team would raise further constitutional and legal issues before lower levels.
Trump’s account of being a victim of political persecution is not new. He repeatedly referred to both the investigation into Russia’s possible influence over the 2016 US election and the impeachment procedure sought by the Democrats as a “witch hunt”. With regard to the financial documents, the magazine “The Atlantic” wrote that the case was the next phase in the dispute over the question of whether Trump could do what he wanted as president.
Trump said several times last summer alone that he could do what he wanted as president. Trump’s lawyer William Consovoy had confirmed to a judge that, in his view, the temporary immunity from the presidency was so great that Trump could even shoot a person on the street in New York without fear of consequences – as Trump himself claims in the 2016 election campaign would have.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany made it clear that nothing had changed in Trump’s stance on a president’s immunity. “He accepts every decision of the Supreme Court as applicable law, but still does not change his position.”