Politics

Supreme Court refuses House Democrats' request to speed up Trump tax case litigation in lower courts

Key Points
  • The Supreme Court rebuffed an effort by Democrats in the House of Representatives to speed up the process by which they can continue to fight for President Trump's financial records in lower courts. 
  • The justices denied a request from Democratic-led committees to finalize the court's ruling that blocked the enforcement of their subpoenas.
  • The committees are seeking financial information from the president's longtime accounting firm and banks. 
Crowds line up outside the Supreme Court as it resumes oral arguments at the start of its new term in Washington, October 7, 2019.
Mary F. Calvert | Reuters

The Supreme Court on Monday rebuffed an effort by House Democrats to speed up the process by which they can continue to fight for President Donald Trump's financial records in lower courts. 

The justices denied a request from attorneys for several Democratic-led congressional committees to finalize the court's ruling from earlier in the month that blocked the enforcement of their subpoenas. The committees had issued them to obtain financial information from the president's longtime accounting firm and banks. 

The court rejected the Democrats' request in an unsigned order, with only Justice Sonia Sotomayor noting that she would have granted it. 

The top court ruled July 9 that the federal appeals courts in Washington and New York that upheld the Democrats' subpoenas did not properly address issues related to the Constitution's separation of powers. The Supreme Court permitted the committees to try again under a stricter standard, which they have said they intend to do. 

The July 9 ruling effectively ensured that the public would not see Trump's financial records ahead of the November election. Monday's action served to make such a possibility even less likely. Trump, who is facing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, is the first president in decades not to make his tax returns publicly available. 

Also July 9, the justices ruled in favor of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. in a separate case over access to the president's records, rejecting Trump's claims of immunity from the subpoenas but allowing him to raise new objections. Both decisions were 7-2. Vance's office has said it is investigating potential violations of state law but has provided few details. 

Typically, Supreme Court judgments go into effect 25 days after rulings are issued, which is Aug. 3 in the tax records cases. 

Douglas Letter, the general counsel to the House of Representatives, asked the court to put the judgment into effect immediately, noting that the current Congress' term expires in January. Letter wrote in court papers that the committees' opportunity to seek the president's records "diminishes by the day." 

The House oversight, intelligence and financial services committees have said they are seeking the president's financial records to inform potential legislation and as part of investigations into foreign money laundering and foreign interference in U.S. elections. 

In a filing asking the top court to rule immediately, Letter wrote that doing so would allow the House to obtain records needed "to address, among other issues, conflicts of interest that threaten to undermine the Presidency, money-laundering and unsafe lending practices, and foreign interference in U.S. elections and any other ongoing threats to national security arising from President Trump's foreign financial entanglements."

William Consovoy, an attorney for Trump, urged the justices to reject the effort by House Democrats. 

"The Committees voluntarily stayed enforcement of the subpoenas for more than six months as these cases made their way through the lower courts," Consovoy wrote in a filing. "They should not be heard to complain that the proceedings are moving too slowly."

Trump's personal attorneys, a representative for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.