In the most recent stage of the long-running saga, a Manhattan grand jury issued a subpoena for the president’s tax records. Led by lawyer Cyrus Vance Jr, the investigation is into hush money paid to two women who claims they had affairs with Trump.
Trump denies the claims and is sued Vance’s office in federal courts to block the subpoena.
A three-judge appeals panel in New York have unanimously rejected the president’s argument that he is immune to criminal investigation. Trump has claimed near total immunity, on the basis that a sitting president cannot be criminally investigated.
One of the president’s attorneys, William Consovoy, argued in court that the president could shoot a person on New York City’s Fifth Avenue and still not be subject to arrest or prosecution until the end of his term in office.
The panel declined to agree, ruling that “Any presidential immunity from state criminal process does not extend to investigative steps like the grand jury subpoena at issue here”.
The case will now be presented to the Supreme Court, in a hearing that will likely see Trump’s two nominees – Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – under intense scrutiny.
If the Supreme Court’s nine judges decide against the president’s case, his tax returns will be seen by a grand jury. Conversely, should they rule against the decisions made in federal court, they will be reversing legal decisions made on the basis of precedent.
As CNN notes, the judges would potentially issue a legal opinion next spring, as the presidential race gets under way.
A federal judge last month dismissed Trump’s case against another subpoena on the grounds that “the court cannot square a vision of presidential immunity that would place the president above the law”.