(Washington) The United States Supreme Court on Thursday inflicted a setback on Donald Trump, ruling that a New York prosecutor was entitled to claim the accounting records of the American president, including his statements of tax, but has blocked, for now, their transfer to Congress.
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These two decisions undermine Mr. Trump's broad conception of his presidential immunity, but should not allow American citizens to know more about his finances before the presidential election on November 3.
“On the one hand I am satisfied, on the other I am not,” said the Republican billionaire after the publication of the two judgments delivered by a majority of seven judges out of nine. “We will have to start from scratch,” he said from the White House, saying he was the victim of a “political witch hunt” again.
In a first decision, the Supreme Court clearly contradicted Donald Trump who, in the name of his presidential status, refuses to transmit a whole series of financial documents to the justice of New York State.
“No citizen, not even the president, can avoid having to produce documents in the event of a criminal investigation,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts for the majority. “The president does not enjoy absolute immunity,” he added.
The Manhattan prosecutor, Cyrus Vance, who is investigating a possible violation of the laws on the financing of electoral campaigns during the presidential election of 2010, can therefore ask him for evidence, held the Court.
“It is a huge victory for our judicial system and its founding principle that no one – not even the president – is above the law,” said the prosecutor, a Democrat.
“Not good news”
But the investigations are carried out by a grand jury, a group of citizens drawn by lot who operate in the greatest secrecy and, in theory, nothing in the file should be made public.
In addition, the Court considered that the president could raise other objections before the courts and his lawyers rushed into the breach. “We are now going to present new legal and constitutional arguments,” said Jay Sekulow, saying that he was “satisfied” with the Court's judgments.
In a second decision, the Temple of Law held that the courts had been wrong to validate comparable requests made by Congress which, according to the High Court, pose problems for the separation of powers.
She therefore asked the judges to review their copy, taking into account a whole series of criteria to assess whether parliamentary orders were justified.
For the Democratic President of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, this decision “is not good news” for the president.
“Even if it requests more information from Congress, the Court reaffirmed the authority of Congress to carry out supervision missions (of the executive) on behalf of the American people,” she said. , promising that the elected democrats would continue to “seek the truth, in particular on the links between the president and Russia”.
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Unlike all his predecessors over the years 1970, Donald Trump, who made his fortune a campaign argument, refuses publish their tax returns. Its lack of transparency feeds speculations on the extent of its wealth or on potential conflicts of interest.
To try to find out more, three committees of the House of Representatives, in the hands of the Democrats, had asked in 2019 to the accounting firm Mazars , but also to Deutsche Bank and Capital One, a whole series of financial documents relating to the affairs of Donald Trump between 2010 and 2018, but also on those of his relatives.
At the same time, the Manhattan prosecutor had asked the accounting firm Mazars to provide him with the financial records of Donald Trump for the same period to shed light on a payment made during the campaign of 2016 to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels.
This payment could have been used to buy the silence of the young woman on a supposed connection with the billionaire, in violation of the laws of financing of the electoral campaigns in force in the state.
During the proceedings, the President's lawyers considered that he could not be prosecuted during his presidency, going so far as to say that he could shoot someone in the street without being worried in the 'immediate.
Even if this theory is now swept away, the story is not over. Law professor Randall Eliason said, “There are going to be new court battles now and Trump's financial documents are unlikely to be seen before the election – or even never.”