WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is hoping to persuade a Supreme Court with two of his appointees to keep his tax and other financial records from being turned over to lawmakers and a New York district attorney.
The justices are hearing arguments by telephone Tuesday in a pivotal legal fight that could affect the presidential campaign, even with the coronavirus outbreak and the resulting economic fallout. Rulings against the president could result in the quick release of personal financial information that Trump has sought strenuously to keep private.
The justices have been hearing cases by phone this month in an effort to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. Six of the nine Supreme Court justices are over the age of 65.
Trump has resisted calls to release his tax returns since before his election in 2016. Now, joined by the Justice Department, he is appealing lower court rulings that determined subpoenas issued by the House of Representatives and the Manhattan district attorney to his longtime accounting firm and two banks for years of tax returns, bank records and other financial documents are valid.
The president is advancing broad arguments to try to stymie House Democrats. In the case involving the criminal investigation launched by District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Trump is asserting that while he holds office he cannot even be investigated.
His Supreme Court arguments draw on law review articles that will be very familiar to one member of the court. “At the end of the day, ‘a President who is concerned about an ongoing criminal investigation is almost inevitably going to do a worse job as President,'" Trump's lawyers told the court, quoting from a 2009 article by now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The Trump-appointed Kavanaugh previously worked on independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation of President Bill Clinton, which led to Clinton's impeachment in 1998. He was acquitted by the Senate the following year.
Kavanaugh is quoted five times in Trump's main Supreme Court brief in the Vance case. Justice Neil Gorsuch is Trump's other high-court appointee.