The Trump-hating “news” media today are trumpeting his “defeat” at the hands of the SCOTUS. This kind of spin is to be expected by the partisan “news” media, but the truth is far more complex.
The extent of Trump’s “defeat” was that the SCOTUS rejected his argument that presidents have “absolute immunity” from having to comply with subpoenas in state court proceedings. The Court, citing liberally to the Clinton-era cases on related issues, was probably correct as a matter of law in this ruling. However, that’s full extent of Trump’s “defeat.”
The SCOTUS also ruled that the president still has the right to raise all available legal and constitutional objections to the subpoenas themselves (which were not at issue in today’s decisions) in the NY case, and the president’s attorneys have already announced their intention to do so. The SCOTUS also ruled that “the high respect that is owed to the office of the Chief Executive should inform the conduct of the entire proceeding, including the timing and scope of discovery.”
As a result, it is now a near certainty that the Democrats engaged in this partisan witch hunt will not succeed in getting the president’s tax returns before the election. It is also far from certain that they will ever get the tax returns, or at least all of them in their entirety. And, even if they do eventually get the tax returns, they will have to be kept confidential from the public under the laws pertaining to grand juries. Any attempt to leak those documents would be a criminal act.
Given that the real purpose of subpoenaing the president’s tax returns was to use them against him politically, today’s ruling, as a practical matter, was actually a very significant victory for the president.
With regard to the congressional subpoenas, the SCOTUS ruled that neither side had provided a meaningful approach to addressing constitutional separation of powers concerns, and they remanded the case back to the lower courts for the two sides to address these issues and for the lower courts to initially decide. This issue will not be resolved before the election. (In fact, if the Republicans regain control of the House in this year’s election, the case is likely to be dropped altogether. However, as things stand right now, the Republicans are unlikely to prevail in the election.)
So, again, given that the real purpose of subpoenaing the tax records was to use them as a weapon against the president politically, this ruling was a political victory for the president.
The bottom line is that the Democrats failed to get the president’s personal tax records to use as a political weapon against him in this election. They might eventually get those records, but if they do, by that time the president will no longer ever again be a candidate for public office.
So, while Donald Trump personally might not be out of the woods, candidate Trump is. And that is a very decisive defeat for the Democrats.