SCOTUS blocks House subpoena of Trump financial records

The President had another good day at the Supreme Court yesterday, at least for the time being. The House Oversight Committee (formerly chaired by Elija Cummings) has been trying to get Trump’s tax returns since April and lower courts have backed their demand. But the President has been appealing those rulings and yesterday the Supreme Court blocked the request. It’s not permanent, however. This simply represents a delay until all of the formal appeals can be filed. (NBC News)

The U.S. Supreme Court late Monday blocked a House subpoena directing President Donald Trump’s accounting firm to turn over several years’ worth of financial documents, giving the president at least a temporary legal victory.

In a brief order, the court said the subpoena would remain on hold until the president’s lawyers file their appeal and the court acts on the case. The court gave his lawyers until Dec. 5 to file their appeal, a sign the justices intend to move quickly. But if the court agrees to hear the appeal, the stay would remain in effect for several more months.

As with all discussions related to Donald Trump’s tax returns, perhaps the justices will return to the fundamental question underlying all of these probes. Is there a credible claim that a crime has been committed, leading to the exposure of a citizen’s tax returns?

In this instance, consider the source of the fishing expedition that the Oversight Committee has embarked upon. The entire thing was based on claims made by Michael Cohen. Yes, that would be the same Michael Cohen who was forced to show up and apologize to Congress for all the lies he told them while under oath in 2017. It’s the same Michael Cohen who was convicted of multiple counts of tax evasion and related crimes. It’s the same Michael Cohen that was convicted of perjury after lying to Congress about Trump. It’s the same Michael Cohen who has been at war with the President ever since he was pretty much thrown under the bus by his old boss.

Yeah… that guy.

Cohen stated that the President “inflated” his claimed worth to make himself look better and “deflated” it to save money on his taxes. To the best of our knowledge, he never provided Congress with any documents to back up those claims. (But let’s be honest… would you really be surprised if he had? Or if most wealthy people try to do that?)

One line of defense that the President’s attorneys are taking is that the House Oversight Committee has no authority to investigate Trump’s finances unless they are doing so for the purpose of writing laws. They aren’t a law enforcement body. That’s technically true, but congressional investigations have regularly been used to gather information which can then be passed to the Justice Department with a recommendation regarding possible prosecution. It’s unclear how the Supremes might view such a line of defense.

But perhaps a better question would be why a potential case of tax fraud is being handled in Congress. If there is valid suspicion that Trump (or anyone, for that matter) filed tax returns improperly, wouldn’t an audit by the IRS be the appropriate route to take? And Trump has repeatedly said that he’s been under audit for years. For all we know, that same investigation is well underway by the proper authorities.

In any event, this temporary measure will only hold until early next month. Then the justices will have to decide whether or not they will formally hear the case. If they do, that will likely push the final results well into next year. And that would put it back on the table much close to the election, for whatever that’s worth.