Mixed News from SCOTUS

I’m trying to wrap my head around SCOTUS rulings today. Adam Liptak at the New York Times explains the Trump financial records rulings:

The Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the way for prosecutors in New York to see President Trump’s financial records, a stunning defeat for Mr. Trump but a decision that probably means the records will be shielded from public scrutiny under grand jury secrecy rules until after the election, and perhaps indefinitely.

In a separate decision, the court ruled that Congress could not, at least for now, see many of the same records. The vote in both cases was 7 to 2. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote both majority opinions.

The court’s decision in favor of the New York prosecutors was a major statement on the scope and limits of presidential power, one that will take its place with landmark rulings that required President Richard M. Nixon to turn over tapes of Oval Office conversations and forced President Bill Clinton to provide evidence in a sexual harassment suit.

In the case concerning the prosecutors’ subpoena, Chief Justice Roberts wrote that “no citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.” He added that Mr. Trump may still raise objections to the scope and relevance of the subpoena.

The two holdouts were Alito and Thomas. We probably won’t see the records before the election, but I trust the New York prosecutors will not hesitate to go forward and nail the bleeper next year.

Note that the Big Baby is having a meltdown now:


What can one say, but …

Here’s another explanation of the rulings, from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate:

The Supreme Court managed to pull off a seemingly impossible balancing act on Thursday: It denied President Donald Trump the sweeping immunity from oversight he demanded while also shielding Trump from oversight before the November election. In Trump v. Vance, the court cleared the way for a New York grand jury to subpoena the president’s tax returns … eventually. In Trump v. Mazars, the court upheld Congress’ authority to investigate the president but stymied (at least for now) its current efforts to do just that. With these two decisions, the Supreme Court—and, specifically, Chief Justice John Roberts—has dealt a blow to Trump’s alarming view of unbridled executive power. Yet it has also protected this particular executive from immediate scrutiny.

Vance and Mazars are different cases that ask a similar question: Is the president above the law while he is in office? Or must his executive authority yield to other compelling interests? In both cases the Supreme Court declared that, no, the president cannot exploit his constitutional powers to insulate himself from all oversight. This ruling is a major blow to Trump, and very good news for the fundamental democratic proposition that the president is not a king. But the court went on to give Trump a temporary victory by sending both cases back down to the lower courts for further assessments. In Vance, this move is probably just a hiccup on the way to a final order sending Trump’s tax returns to a New York grand jury. In Mazars, however, the court’s compromise could functionally kill the House of Representatives’ efforts to get its hands on Trump’s financial records.

Aaron Burr made the news today, and not the entertainment section. Jennifer Rubin:

In Vance, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. — writing for a 7-to-2 majority — held that the president not only lacks immunity from a state criminal investigation but also enjoys no special, heightened standard of proof. Roberts recounted the history of the trial of Aaron Burr and then-Chief Justice John Marshall’s ruling that President Thomas Jefferson was not immune from a subpoena for records. “In the two centuries since the Burr trial, successive Presidents have accepted Marshall’s ruling that the Chief Executive is subject to subpoena,” Roberts wrote. He also cited U.S. v. Nixon, which held that “the President’s ‘generalized assertion of privilege must yield to the demonstrated, specific need for evidence in a pending criminal trial.’” While these cases involved federal subpoenas, Roberts held that state subpoenas are no different. Rejecting the notion of absolute immunity, Roberts found that “we cannot conclude that absolute immunity is necessary or appropriate under Article II or the Supremacy Clause.” (On this, he points out there was unanimous agreement in the court.)

So while it’s disappointing the records won’t be released  before the election, it could have been worse.

In another significant ruling I didn’t see coming, the Court ruled that about half of Oklahoma is rightfully a reservation under the jurisdiction of the Muscogee (Creek), Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole Nations.

The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that nearly half of Oklahoma falls within an Indian reservation, a decision that could reshape the criminal-justice system by preventing state authorities from prosecuting offenses there that involve Native Americans.

The 5-to-4 decision, potentially one of the most consequential legal victories for Native Americans in decades, could have far-reaching implications for the 1.8 million people who live across what is now deemed “Indian Country” by the high court. The lands include much of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s second-biggest city.

The swing vote this time was Gorsuch, siding with the four liberals.

“Today we are asked whether the land these treaties promised remains an Indian reservation for purposes of federal criminal law,” Justice Gorsuch wrote. “Because Congress has not said otherwise, we hold the government to its word.”

I suspect it’s going to take some time for people to figure out how this is going to work. But treaties are treaties.

17 thoughts on “Mixed News from SCOTUS

    • Well I imagine Scalia really wanted very much to be a hold out 🙂  Maybe he would come out of "retirement" for that!  I recall the two of them being referred to as Scalito back in the day.

  1. I don't know of any president who's emerged victorious from a war with the USSC. Other presidents have argued their side before the court and when they lost, accepted the decision with grace.

    Speculation: Will 45 try to put the DOJ above USSC decisions, This would put Barr in criminal jeopardy, I suspect.  This looks like bad fiction, I know. The courts don't have enforcement powers, though. The muscle for making an order happen seems to be with and through agencies that Barr and 45 control. It's been my observation that 45 ignores any law that doesn't have an enforcement clause. If the law passed by Congress says: "The president must" 45 seems to consider that "must" is optional if the Senate won't impeach. So why would you think 45 will respect an order stamped, "USSC?"


  2. I'm not a lawyer, so I read some legal beagles I respect at:  LG&M, the NY Times, and the WaPo.  I also watched Ari Melbar on MSNBC, and he had some more legal experts on.

    The consensus seems to be, that both of today's decisions were bad for tRUMP, and good for the rule of law.  YAY!

    The bad part, is that it's highly unlikely we voting peons will see his returns before the election.  BOOOOO!

    In other words  this is a typical judgement from the Roberts SCOTUS: We win some things, we lose some others.

    But what had to really, really hurt, is that the presuDUNCE's two court picks decided AGAINST him!!!  YAY II!

    And as a result, tRUMP had an epic, 10+ Depends shit-fit!

    Oh, was he UPSET!  He tweeted his tiny twitter-twattering thumbs down to the knuckle!  Read them!  IT'S SOOOOOOOOOOOO MUCH FUN!!!!!

    Any single thing that elicits this much whining from Baby Hugely IS A GREAT THING!

    Oh, and to add more to this shitty white man's burdon, NY City painted "BLACK LIVES MATTER" on 5th Avenue, right in front tRUMP Tumor!


    • The key takeaway from the decision in black and white says the president is not king and has NO special powers to prohibit investigations. He really expected the USSC to crown him.

      Not only did they NOT crown him, they were not gentle with 45. 

      Part of the posturing from Bunker Boy is trying to gin up support by playing the victim. There's a psychological flaw in the plan. People hear the disharmony of whining about being cheated while singing your own praises. Either you're winning or you're not.

      (Will the decision cause Barr to pause? The USSC isn't going to shield 45, what happens when  the stuff you are doing goes to criminal court?)

  3. Letting a grand jury see the records is probably the most prudent thing to do. This is a similar route to that which brought down Richard Nixon. The grand jury that investigated Nixon eventually produced a "roadmap" (only released to the public last year) that was given to Congress, detailing Nixon's crimes, and served as the basis for his impeachment. Only difference is plaintiffs today are state level, not federal.

    The wheels of justice grind on, however slowly, but at least they're grinding and not jammed. It's been a good day.

  4. Well, this could be a good thing in the sense that, "It's not the steak, it's the sizzle."  Where his taxes are the steak and speculation of what they contain is the sizzle.

    And as far as the other decision of SCOTUS I suppose that means that Salamanca, NY is no longer the largest city on an indian reservation.

  5. Doug,

    I don't think Barr is going to take a pause.

    I expect him to double-down.  He IS a conservative, after all.

    And Barr can do a lot of damage.  I really believe he'll want to destroy the Justice Department as much as possible before he and tRUMP are forced to leave.  There are just some people out in the world, who, if they can't totally control what they want, or realize that maybe the end is near for their control, decide to destroy that which they sought to control.  The old murder story of, "If I couldn't have him/her, NOBODY ELSE WILL!" 

    I think Barr's one of those types.

    He's one if the remora on the Great White Fat-assed Shark.

    • I'm the first to say I don't know what Barr will do. He's more dangerous than 45 because Barr has a brain. IMO, 45 has pushed Barr to bring arrests of his political enemies. (Recently, 45 went on  twitter tirade against Lindsey Graham for NOT doing timely investigations of those on the enemies list.) The MOST Barr has done is the Durham Report, which Barr has tried to help. But with no evidence of a crime, Barr has only spread rumors. 45 wants enemies behind bars. (We don need no steenkin' evidence.) There seems to be a line Barr isn't crossing but who knows what the line is.

      • There seems to be a line Barr isn't crossing but who knows what the line is.

        I'll speculate on what that line is. My guess is that Barr doesn't want to leave evidence of his criminal wrongdoing. Whereas Trump gets off on leaving evidence and experiencing the adrenaline rush of keeping that evidence suppressed. It's the same dynamic as a flasher who has every opportunity to show their junk to the world via internet photo posting, but choose to expose themselves in an illegal means because they get the thrill of shocking their victims while running the risk of getting caught. It gives them a high of getting over. Trump is an adrenaline junkie who is trying to fill that void of unrequited daddy love.

         Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and criminally insane is just criminally insane.

  6. One aspect I haven't seen mentioned as frequently is, in the Congressional subpoenas, the court also invented new standards for permitting Congress to investigate a President.

    Some feel that this was just to force the lower court to give a ruling, which wouldn't occur before November. However, I'm more cynical, and I suspect that it might be that they invented new standards to permit Congress to investigate a Democratic President, and to deny equivalent subpoenas for a Republican.

    How much of this is pure rant, and how much is actual "I really think that's what they will do"? I don't know, but, face it; any court that argues "clearly, we don't need the VRA's preclearance provisions, and by golly, we've seen no reason to comment on the vast wave of voting rights restrictions that were rushed into place after that decision," can't be trusted.

  7. Say what you will about Fauci, but at least he has enough sense to grab for the safety rails before being completely sucked into Trump's integrity destroying vortex. I see a biblical analogy parallel coming down the road for the clowns who are hanging onto Trump's coattails. It's the Garden of Gethsemane story where Peter denies he has anything to do with Jesus once he perceived things were going south for Jesus. "I don't know the guy! He ain't no friend of mine, and never was. Jesus who?"

    It's gonna be the same story for all of Trump's newfound buddies who think Trump is their ticket to ride, but when the shit hits the fan they'll all be tripping over their feet trying to get away from having anything to do with him. I think that Gethsemane moment is fast approaching for many of them.

    Lindsey Graham will say… Donald who?. No, I don't know the guy. I've been too busy doing the people's work, you know, making the world safe for Democracy and just looking to find my libido.

Comments are closed.