Top US court rejects Trump immunity claim

11 July, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Top US court rejects Trump immunity claim

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court delivered a blow to President Donald Trump on Thursday, rejecting his claim of immunity from criminal investigation and ruling that his financial records must be handed over to New York prosecutors, reports AFP.  

But the nation’s highest court, in a decision in a separate case, temporarily blocked Trump’s Democratic opponents in Congress from accessing his tax returns and business files.

The rulings prompted a string of furious tweets from Trump but they may actually allow the New York real estate tycoon to keep his tax returns and other financial documents hidden until after the November election.

The court ruled 7-2 against Trump in a case brought by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat who is seeking the president’s financial records in connection with a “hush money” payment made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels that may have violated campaign finance laws.

While the court ruled that Trump’s accountants must turn over the records, it did leave room for his lawyers to challenge the scope of the district attorney’s subpoena in a lower court.

Both of the conservative justices appointed by Trump — Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — joined Chief Justice John Roberts and the four liberal justices in rejecting the claim by Trump’s lawyers that a president enjoyed absolute immunity.

“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,” Roberts said. “We reaffirm that principle today.“

- ‘Tremendous victory’ -

The other case concerned a request by three Democratic-led House committees for Trump’s tax returns and other records and the Republican president received a temporary reprieve there.

In another 7-2 ruling, the court sent the congressional case back to a lower court, saying it needs to further examine the question of separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.

Vance called the ruling “a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one — not even a president — is above the law.” “Our investigation, which was delayed for almost a year by this lawsuit, will resume, guided as always by the grand jury’s solemn obligation to follow the law and the facts, wherever they may lead,” Vance said.

Even if Trump’s financial records are eventually turned over to the New York prosecutors they may remain hidden from public view because of grand jury secrecy.

Jay Sekulow, Trump’s attorney, sought to portray the rulings as a win for Trump but the president reacted angrily.

“This is about PROSECUTORIAL MISCONDUCT,” Trump tweeted.

“This is all a political prosecution,” Trump added. “Now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”