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Trump Asks Supreme Court To Block Tax Returns Subpoena

President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
President of the United States Donald Trump speaking at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“A lot of folks get really upset about someone getting $140 a month for food stamps. How should we feel about Trump’s golfing vacations at his resorts putting $100 million into his pockets?”

President Trump asked the Supreme Court to block two lower court decisions ordering him to comply with subpoenas on Friday, setting up a showdown between the branches of government that will set a major new precedent for future disputes between Congress and the Executive Branch.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled on Wednesday that it would not overturn its October decision supporting the House of Representatives Oversight Committee’s authority to subpoena the president’s tax records from accounting firm Mazars LLP. In another case, a New York-based federal appeals court supported state prosecutors’ subpoenas into the same accounting firm.

Trump is requesting that the Supreme Court nullify both decisions.

In 2016, Trump broke with a decades-old tradition of presidential candidates releasing their tax returns. He previously claimed he would share them with the public after an audit, but has since used every legal means at his disposal to block their release.

Immunity Doctrine

If the Supreme Court decides to take on the case, their ruling will not only have lasting ramifications on Congress’ ability to investigate a sitting president, but on the legitimacy of Trump’s lawyers’ central argument: that the president is awarded total immunity from criminal investigations in office – even if the president shoots someone in broad daylight.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero previously rejected the broad interpretation of presidential immunity last month, calling it “virtually limitless” and describing Trump’s argument as “repugnant to the nation’s fundamental structure and constitutional values.”

Ryan Thomas, spokesperson for progressive advocacy group Stand Up America, asserted that Trump’s legal argument essentially states that he is above the law.

“No one is above the law, including Donald Trump,” said Thomas. “It’s absolutely shocking the lengths Donald Trump will go to shield himself from accountability. If Trump has nothing to hide, then he should immediately release his tax returns and give the American people the transparency they deserve.”

Politicization Of Courts

Trump’s two Supreme Court nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, have shifted the nine-member court right. The Senate has so far confirmed 162 Trump judicial nominees, many of whom lack experience, a reflection of Sen. Mitch McConnell’s efforts to reshape the nation’s courts with partisan loyalists.

Earlier this week the Senate confirmed Trump legal adviser Steve Menashi to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, a position with pivotal influence over legal battles on the president’s subpoenas. Menashi has never even tried a case before and refused to answer Senators’ questions in his confirmation hearing about potential involvement in the White House’s efforts to conceal the Trump-Zelensky phone call at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

Critics argue Trump picks like Menashi undermine the principle of checks and balances and enable the president to ignore basic Constitutional principles like the emoluments clause.

Trump Profiting From His Public Office

Critics believe it is important for the public to see President Trump’s tax returns because his private business interests could be influencing his public policy decisions. For example, some critics believe Trump’s business interests in Turkey influenced his decision to clear Turkish President Erdogan’s path to massacre U.S. allied Kurds last month.

“I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” Trump told former campaign adviser Steve Bannon during a Breitbart radio show in 2015. “It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers—two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it’s two.”

Mother Jones’ Russ Choma explained last month how Erdogan has previously manipulated Trump by threatening to remove his name from the buildings, which have earned the president millions in royalties since he launched his election in 2015.

This August, a report by Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) found that Trump has visited his properties at least 362 times at taxpayer expense since his 2017 inauguration. Ninety members of Congress made 188 visits to a Trump property, 111 foreign officials stayed at Trump properties, and political groups hosted 63 events at the president’s properties between Trump’s 2017 inauguration and CREW’s August report.

“A lot of folks get really upset about someone getting $140 a month for food stamps,” tweeted economist Dean Baker last week. “How should we feel about Trump’s golfing vacations at his resorts putting $100 million into his pockets?”

“No other president has retained ownership of a massive global business while serving, so this president’s self-enrichment and conflicts of interest represent a unique and unprecedented affront to the democracy,” CREW’s executive director Noah Bookbinder said in a statement.

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a staff writer and assistant editor at Citizen Truth.

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