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Trump lawyers argue he should be immune from subpoenas in Supreme Court case

Trump lawyers argue he should be immune from subpoenas in Supreme Court case

Trump lawyers argue he should be immune from subpoenas in Supreme Court case

Trump lawyers argue he should be immune from subpoenas in Supreme Court case 1

The US Supreme Court appears split on whether a New York prosecutor suing for President Donald Trump‘s tax records should be granted his request. Mr Trump’s lawyer, however, believes the president should have total immunity from any subpoena requiring him to produce his tax records.

The justices presented their oral arguments on Tuesday during a nearly 3 and a half hour session in which they discussed three cases that involved subpoenas aimed at gaining access to the president’s tax history.

According to Reuters, the first two cases discussed dealt with subpoenas filed by the US House of Representatives against Mr Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars LLP, and two banks – Capital One and Deutsche Bank.

The court – which has a conservative majority of judges by a count of 5-4 – appeared to be mixed on whether the House Democrats leading the charge should have access to the president’s records.

During their arguments, the conservative majority seemed cold to the idea of allowing the House to access the records, suggesting it was an attempt to harass the president by the minority party.

However, the justices – who include two Trump appointees – seemed much more open to the subpoena filed by the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who is seeking the record as part of a grand jury investigation.

Mr Trump’s lawyers are pushing for the Supreme Court to side with their assertion that Mr Trump be granted immunity from the subpoenas by virtue of his position as president.

Several justices pushed back on the lawyers’ arguments.

Justice Neil Gorsuch – who was appointed by Mr Trump – pointed out that President Bill Clinton was not given immunity during his sexual harassment lawsuit during his tenure in office, and questioned why a modern court should treat Mr Trump any differently.

Jay Sekulow, Mr Trump’s lawyer, said that the two weren’t comparable, because criminal cases can result in the loss of liberty – imprisonment, in particular – whereas civil cases can only lead to monetary damages.

Justice Elena Kagan reminded Mr Sekulow that a “fundamental precept of our constitutional order is that the president is not above the law.”

Regarding the House’s subpoenas – which are part of a broader investigation into potential money laundering and dishonest reporting on financial statements – the justices questioned a House lawyer as to why their demands were anything other than harassment of the president.

The House’s lawyer, Doug Letter, argued that lawmakers have a broad authority with which to investigate the president for the purpose of writing laws.

Chief Justice John Roberts Jr wasn’t swayed by Mr Letter’s perspective and suggested the House needed to remember it was dealing with a co-equal branch of the government.

“Your test is not much of a test. It’s not a limitation,” Mr Roberts said.

Mr Trump’s lawyers believe he should be shielded from all subpoenas while he is in office, regardless of their provenance, and that lawmakers attempting to justify their investigations into the president as executing their authority to check the executive branch’s power should have their motives scrutinised by a court.

Mr Roberts and Mr Gorsuch were sceptical of that argument.

“Why should we not defer to the House’s views on its own legislative purposes?” Mr Gorsuch asked.

Liberal Justice Stephen Breyer argued that had Mr Trump’s lawyers’ interpretation of the law existed during the Watergate investigation, the US Congress would likely not have been able to properly examine the criminal actions of President Richard Nixon.

Ms Kagan agreed.

“What it seems to me you’re asking us to do is to put a kind of 10-ton weight on the scales between the president and Congress, and essentially to make it impossible for Congress to perform oversight and to carry out its functions,” Ms Kagan told one of the lawyers.

While Mr Gorsuch questioned the president’s defence arguments, he wasn’t overly antagonistic to Mr Trump. He questioned whether lawmakers were correctly using the power of the subpoena, saying they were normally used as law enforcement tools “to investigate known crimes and not to pursue individuals to find crimes.”

The ruling on Mr Trump’s tax records will likely be made in a few weeks. Thus far, lower courts in New York and in Washington have ruled against Mr Trump in all three cases.

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