Chief Justice John Roberts and six colleagues are making it clear that the conservative-tilted Supreme Court has no obligation to fix criminal cases for the Republican president.
The court sent President Donald Trump that message on Thursday when it rejected his claim of "absolute immunity" from investigation while in office.
"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." Trump's two picks on the high court, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, voted with Roberts, as did the court's liberals.
Such a message wouldn't ordinarily be called for. But Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. found himself blocked when he sought tax and financial records from Trump's business. The ongoing probe stems from Trump's arranging with his then-personal lawyer Michael Cohen to pay $130,000 in hush money to porn actress Stormy Daniels in 2016. Vance is pushing to find out, among other things, if records were falsified in the process.
Although the 7-2 ruling returns the case to a lower court, pushing any disclosures past the November election, Trump reacted on Twitter with rage and claims to martyrdom. Apparently the president believed the high court owed him protection from a legal inquiry in his former home city.
Trump at first sounded neither grateful nor gratified about another ruling that restricts congressional subpoenas aimed at him. Maybe he has convinced himself, as he did before, that Article 2 of the Constitution says he can do whatever he wants.
"This is all a political prosecution," Trump wailed on Twitter. "I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!" He acts as if every other candidate for president in a generation does not routinely disclose tax information or respond to outside inquiries.
As usual, Trump called for probes of the last administration and his election opponent, former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump has evoked all manner of crimes against him. His supporters still express hope that a Justice Department review of the Russia probe will damage Democrats. There is no sign of this.
In the other ruling on Trump's records, Roberts and his colleagues found, also 7-2, that a lower court must consider separation-of-power issues regarding subpoenas from a House committee. Ironically, this decision could prove useful for a future Democratic president bent on fending off inquiries from Republican lawmakers.
Trump has been frustrated by the top court's decisions regarding immigration, abortion, the census and gender. In November 2018, Roberts issued a rare public rebuke when the president launched a spiteful attack on judges selected by President Barack Obama. In his statement issued the day before Thanksgiving, Roberts said: “The independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for.”