Trump seeks Supreme Court's help to keep tax records hidden

President Donald Trump is the first US president since Richard Nixon in the 1970s to refuse to release his tax returns

President Donald Trump is the first US president since Richard Nixon in the 1970s to refuse to release his tax returns

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked the lawyer representing the House Democrats how harassment should be measured when there are several different House committees investigating the president, all seeking the same personal financial information.

Douglas Letter, general counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives, told the high court the lawmakers' subpoena is lawful so long as it is relevant to a conceivable legislative objective. "How can the court balance those interests?" Trump insists that he is being targeted for political reasons as opposed to a legitimate legislative objective, and that Congress does not have the right to expose individuals without a valid reason.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor questioned the validity of using the president as a "case study" for potential future legislation. She said this could violate restrictions against exposing for the sake of exposure.

"The president can not effectively discharge those duties if any and every prosecutor in this country may target him with criminal process", Trump's attorneys argued.

Justice Neil Gorsuch said that normally law enforcement measures are taken to investigate evidence of a particular crime, not to look into an individual to see if a crime had been committed.

"This has become a pitched battle", Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg observed, recognizing Trump's refusal to publicly release his tax records, as recent presidents have done. The cases test the limits of presidential power in relation to Congress and state prosecutors.

During the first session - dedicated to the congressional subpoenas - lawyers arguing on the president's behalf alleged that the subpoenas amounted to unnecessary "harassment" of Trump and his family, noting that the requests for financial records extended beyond the president to his children and grandchildren.

The Democratic-led committees are seeking records related to Trump's businesses for probes involving government-ethics laws and suspected foreign influence in United States elections.

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Ginsburg also addressed concerns that Congress could use their power to harass a political rival.

He added: "I don't know what to predict, but it seems clear that the Court will not rule broadly in favor of the House, and rightly so".

"It could be every grand jury, every prosecutor", said Thomas. They have downplayed prior Supreme Court rulings regarding limits on the reach of presidential authority and point instead to Justice Department guidance that asserts that a sitting president can not be indicted or prosecuted. Cohen said that Trump had inflated and deflated certain assets on financial statements between 2011 and 2013 in part to reduce his real estate taxes.

The Supreme Court said on Tuesday that as part of a pilot project, the judges may come to courtrooms in the apex court premises from next week to hold judicial proceedings through video conferencing.

Carey Dunne, the general counsel of the Manhattan District Attorney's office, sought to shoot that down, stating, "There's really no empirical basis in history for this, this apocryphal prediction" of a "parade of horribles" laid out by Trump's lawyer. As a result, the three financial institutions would be free to send the documents to Congress - or to refuse.

Two of the three cases concern attempts by House committees to enforce subpoenas seeking Trump's financial records from three businesses: Trump's longtime accounting firm Mazars LLP and two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One.

Appellate courts in Washington, D.C., and NY brushed aside the president's arguments in decisions that focused on the fact that the subpoenas were addressed to third parties asking for records of Trump's business and financial dealings as a private citizen, not as president. In the case involving the criminal investigation launched by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Trump is asserting that while he holds office he can not even be investigated.

The court's ruling, expected before the end of June, will allow the justices to render a decision before the Nov 3 presidential election in which Trump is seeking a second term in office.

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