Donald Trump

Roberts, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh Reject Trump's Assertion of 'Absolute Immunity' From State Criminal Subpoenas

The Supreme Court weighs the legality of subpoenaing Trump’s financial records.


The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a pair of eagerly awaited decisions today in cases arising from efforts by the Manhattan district attorney and by members of Congress to subpoena the financial records of President Donald Trump and several of his business entities. The cases are Trump v. Vance and Trump v. Mazars USA.

Trump lost big in Trump v. Vance. At issue was a subpoena filed by the New York County District Attorney's Office seeking financial records from Mazars USA, LLP, the longtime accounting firm of both Trump and various businesses tied to him. Trump's lawyers told the Supreme Court that the president should enjoy "absolute immunity" from such state legal actions while in office. As the Court put it, Trump "argues that the Supremacy Clause gives a sitting President absolute immunity from state criminal subpoenas because compliance with those subpoenas would categorically impair a President's performance of his Article II functions."

The Supreme Court resoundingly rejected that position. "Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding," declared the majority opinion of Chief Justice John Roberts. "We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need." In other words, the Manhattan district attorney may ultimately obtain Trump's financial records.

Roberts' opinion was joined in full by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, concurred in the judgment only. They too rejected Trump's sweeping claim of absolute immunity from state criminal subpoenas. But Kavanaugh and Gorsuch also stressed that Trump "may raise [other] constitutional and legal objections to the state grand jury subpoena as appropriate" as the case proceeds in the lower courts.

Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito voted in dissent.

Trump fared a little better in today's second subpoena case. At issue in Trump v. Mazars was an effort by the House Committee on Oversight and Reform to obtain eight years of Trump's financial records from his accounting firm. The key question was whether the congressional committee had a "legitimate legislative purpose" in seeking those documents. Trump's lawyers insisted that if the House prevailed, future congressional committees would be empowered to go on endless fishing expeditions into the private records of future presidents. "A congressional committee merely needs to say that it is considering legislation requiring presidents to disclose [financial] information of this type," Trump's legal team argued. "Given the temptation to investigate the personal lives of political rivals, legislative subpoenas targeting the private affairs of presidents will become routine in times of divided government."

That argument seemed to resonate with the Court. "Far from accounting for separation of powers concerns, the House's approach aggravates them by leaving essentially no limits on the congressional power to subpoena the President's personal records," said Chief Justice Roberts, whose opinion was joined by Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh. "Without limits on its subpoena powers, Congress could 'exert an imperious controul' over the Executive Branch and aggrandize itself at the President's expense, just as the Framers feared."

But the majority stopped short of actually ruling in Trump's favor. In fact, the justices essentially punted the case back down to the lower courts.

"In assessing whether a subpoena directed at the President's personal information is 'related to, and in furtherance of, a legitimate task of the Congress,'" Roberts wrote, "courts must perform a careful analysis that takes adequate account of the separation of powers principles at stake, including both the significant legislative interests of Congress and the 'unique position' of the President." Roberts then instructed the lower courts to perform that "careful analysis" by remanding Trump v. Mazars "for further proceedings consistent with this opinion."

The upshot of today's two decisions is that the Supreme Court thoroughly rebuffed Trump's most sweeping assertion of executive power while also casting doubt on the House Oversight Committee's broad claim of congressional power.

NEXT: The Obamacare Birth Control Coverage Fight That Never Ends

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  1. this Court has been worth the price of admission

    1. I particularly liked them giving half of Oklahoma back to the various Indian Tribes that lived there in 1909.

      1. lol our Land Rush farm is in the northwest part so we’re safe.

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      2. Oh yes. The “indians” who migrated from Siberia some thousands of years ago and stole the land for themselves. Oh yes, those people.

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  2. Do they have evidence of anything to justify this, or is this just a general “we can grab any record of anyone we hate for political purposes, but they cannot do that to us because reasons”?

    1. Do they have evidence of anything to justify this

      Trump is the ham sandwich exception to 250 years of jurisprudence on executive privilege as well as the 4th and 5th amendments.

    2. Yes, let’s defend the President’s claim that he has “absolute immunity from criminal process of any kind.” What the fuck is wrong with you.

      1. Libertarians for Complete and Total POWER for the President!

        1. Retarded take to a retarded take.

      2. There is a difference. You have a black and white view of the world in common with various Trumpistas. For or against Trump, there are no alternatives.

      3. The next Democrat president, (May God deliver us) needs to be investigated from day one. His/her entire life needs to be analyzed, slandered, reviled, and mocked from Day One. Everyone in his/her family and administration needs to have a SWAT team rouse them out of bed in the early hours and arrest them on charges of whatever . . .

    3. Whether or not NY has evidence that justifies enforcement of the subpoena is the next fight. All SCOTUS ruled is that it is constitutionally permissible for a state to enact legal proceedings against a sitting President rather than waiting until they leave office. From a libertarian perspective, I don’t disagree with that ruling. I do think, though, that the grounds for the subpoena are flimsy at best.

      Besides, we all know that if Trumps tax returns were truly problematic, they would have been ‘anonymously’ leaked by someone at the IRS already.

      1. They went with the “absolute immunity” argument because it just ties everything up in court longer, not risking a (ridiculous) definitive ruling now.
        They will go with legitimate arguments down the line

    4. If Democrats want to open another can of worms, they’ll regret it.

  3. Trump lost big in Trump v. Vance.

    Trump should challenge him to a dance contest.

  4. I am wondering what the crime is to justify this. If they can do this to the president they can do it to us.

    1. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joined by Justice Neil Gorsuch, concurred in the judgment only.

      How long until Trump tweets that they’re fired?

      1. reply fail

      2. Here, let me guess the tweet:

      3. That was my initial reaction.

        I’m also wondering that since the conservasphere told us we all had to vote for Trump so that he can appoint good judges to the supreme court, how long until the conservasphere starts calling Trump’s appointees “libruhl activist judges”?

        1. Im glad the three of you had the same initial reaction of how you can make up something to make trump look bad. Makes you totally look intelligent.

          1. Cry more, wittle Jesse.

        2. After the Title VII decision a few weeks ago, a number of conservatives did exactly that, actually.

    2. Maybe you should have thought about it before paying off hookers while violating campaign finance laws, hiring a shady crook as your personal lawyer, and pretending you are worth billions when it’s not true.

      1. …and hiring a Russian money launderer as your campaign manager, and hiring a traitor as your national security advisor, and hiring Stone, a perjurer, to do whatever it is he does, and hiring perjurers Papadapolous, van der Zwaan, Rick Gates and…

        1. Wow, He could have just hired one Clinton to do all those things.

          1. Fuck you he should go to prison, I don’t care if none of those things are actually criminal or even my business.

            1. Of course. It’s a felony in NY for you to have been driven insane.

    3. I believe that is what SCOTUS said. The President like every other citizen can be subpoenaed and must response to the subpoena.

    4. You mean subpoenas? Yes they already can subpoena us. Where have you been?

    5. Democrats can make up something. They have plenty of money to create fake dossiers, pay off phony witnesses or fraudulent “victims” or they can go back to screaming and rating about “Russian collusion” or Ukranian phone calls . . .

    6. That was bizarrely backwards.

      They can already do it to the rest of us. Well, not me, because I’m not from New York.

  5. I’m not sure at all why a public offical, particularly one with sweeping power as the President, has ANY right to privacy. If I can be forced to undergo warantless, virtually strip search at the airport simple on the basis that entering an airport is a pure voluntary action, why should voluntarily to be President be privileged with Constitutional protection? When a private citizen can be subjected to intrusive scrutiny for a job at Lockheed Martin, why should someone with unitary executive power be entitled to freedom from scrutiny? For that matter Why should any Congressman be privileged with Constitutional protection?

    Certainly, Congress may choose to enact such protection simply for the purpose of preventing a good man from being discouraged from seeking important public offices…. But a constitution right? I don’t think so.

    I say there is not such as right to privacy for ANY elected official! Period.

    1. Maybe the better answer isn’t removing their rights to privacy, but reasserting our rights?

      1. The right to privacy in one’s financial records except when served a court-ordered subpoena seems like a reasonable framework that balances rights and enforcement of laws.

        1. “The right to privacy in one’s financial records except when served a legitimately reasoned court-ordered subpoena seems like a reasonable framework that balances rights and enforcement of laws and not when based on personal or political vendettas.

          Nancy Pelosi says she will release her tax records when she runs for president.

        2. The question is was this reasonable as no underlying crime has really been specified.

    2. I agree with that. If a candidate runs for office, that person should be required to show their financial records, or any other records for that matter. Because they are desiring to hold power over us, and we are entitled to know if they are worthy of being entrusted with that power.

      1. The problem you seem to ignore is the idea that they hold power over us. That isn’t the way it is supposed to work. That is by far the biggest problem in this country and the fact that at least half of the country (including many on the right) don’t seem to understand this is the most troubling aspect.

      2. Of course, you’re so fucking stupid that you think we are hiring a saint and not a manager.

      3. Kinda like Obama sealing ALL his records, Even his foreign student visas…..

        1. Last I checked, chemjeff says he’s a libertarian, not a Democrat. So, why are you bringing up Obama like it is some kind of retort to what chemjeff wrote?

          1. My arthritic, 10 year old lab, is more of a libertarian than ChemJeff.

            1. Really? Because I don’t recall ever seeing chemjeff take a pro-liberal or pro-progressive position.
              I have seen him criticize Trump and conservatives, and then seem Trump sympathizers here exclude the middle and accuse chemjeff of being a liberal.

              1. He takes progressives stances all the time. Just not as progressive as you, so to you it appears he is a libertarian. He is a leftist that likes to call himself a libertarian. He argued in favor of government mandated lockdowns, even though now he tries to memory hole his stance.

      4. Like their Birth certificates, College transcripts,subpoenaed Rose Law firm records, Millitary service records, health records, emails and binders full of women? You mean those records?

  6. I am glad that the court rejected the claim of absolute immunity while allowing Trump to challenge the subpoenas under other constitutional questions. It is the right call. Fuck absolute immunity, no one is above the law and I am glad the courts decided this. His lawyers were idiots for challenging this under that interpretation. He should fire his lawyers and find better ones. They’re plenty of other clauses much better suited to end this fishing expedition.

    1. I don’t blame them for trying, pretty sure the issue has never come up. If you have an undecided constitutional point that, if decided in your favor, would give total victory then there is no excuse for not going for it. Especially when you have a client with the money to fight it.

      Trump’s lawyers also wanted SCOTUS to decide the validity of the subpoena but they punted so expect that fight to go all the way from the lower courts back up to SCOTUS over the next few years.

    2. Trump is having trouble finding anyone good to work with him precisely because he has fired (and trashed talked) too many already.

      1. You are just as bad as the Trumpistas you ridicule. And just as ridiculously jejune.

    3. It was actually a good tactic since it is helping Trump to run out the clock with further delays. As of Nov 4 all of these shenanigans will be moot.

  7. I have to wonder if his lawyers took their que from the impeachment trial. There the lawyers did not argue the President’s innocence but rather that he could do what he wanted. That played well with the Senate Republicans. The argument seems to have fallen flat with SCOTUS. I think SCOTUS decided well that absolute immunity does not exist, but also asking for more well defined subpoenas from Congress.

  8. I think the answer here is not in the courts but rather in the American people. Anyone seeking the Presidency should release their tax records. I don’t think this should be a legal requirement, but rather an expectation. If you feel you can not release these records, maybe you are not the person to run for the office.

    1. I think it should be a legal requirement. Any and all “official records,” school transcripts, medical records, etc. should be public domain if you’re on the final ballot for any elected government office. Don’t like it? Don’t run.

      1. Sure, you can have Trump’s tax records, just as soon as Biden publicly releases his medical records. Don’t hold your breath waiting.

        1. How about Trump’s medical records? I like to see both checked out at the Mayo Clinic and have their records released to the public.

    2. Personally, I fail to see why/how candidate tax records are remotely relevant. Going forward, they should all refuse to release them.

      1. I expect American to reject your position. As usual.

        It must be depressing to be a disaffected culture war casualty.

        1. It must be depressing to be a terrible human being.

    3. I think they should have to pass a couple of days of writing code on a whiteboard.

      OK, maybe just one coding question and a bunch of Constitutional ones?

  9. Subpoenas should only be issued when an actual crime has been identified and there is probable cause, supported by oath, for the requested person or search object contains evidence.

  10. What a circle jerk of progressives fantasizing about all the outrage they imagine others to have.
    You are all not only eunuchs, but quite psychotic

    1. my office is this. it’s a surreal type of fun to watch them dreamsturbate all day about T

  11. Sure, you can have Trump’s tax records, just as soon as Biden publicly releases his medical records. Don’t hold your breath waiting.

    1. We are still waiting for Obama’s transcripts.

    2. Who needs Biden’s medical records? The man’s a blithering idiot.


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  14. Prosecution probably won’t happen till he is out of office in Jan 2021, but the NY prosecutor should have plenty on him so that he can spend the rest of his life in court and jail.

    The new DOJ prosecutors may want to take a few shots at him too. He won’t be able to count on all the enemies on his staff remaining loyal.

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