Supreme Court appears split as justices hear case about release of Trump’s financial records

In addition to a demand last summer from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., congressional committee leaders have pushed for the release of President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Thus far, however, Trump has refused to comply — and The Hill reports that the case is now being argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices appear to be divided, according to recently released statements.

“Balancing the competing interests”

Chief Justice John Roberts did not signal a position on the issue at a Tuesday hearing, at one point acknowledging that “there is some power in the House,” while acknowledging that those powers are limited by the Constitution, The Hill noted.

“I understand the House to concede there is some limit to its authority. So it sounds like at the end of the day this is just another case where the courts are balancing the competing interests on either side. Is that the wrong way to look at it?” Roberts asked Trump’s private attorney, Patrick Strawbridge, according to a transcript from the high court.

Strawbridge, for his part, argued that the “president’s personal papers are not related to anything having to do with the workings of government,” The Hill reported.

“And to empower the committees to simply declare him a useful case study is to open the door to all sorts of oppressive requests,” the attorney added.

Pressed by Justice Samuel Alito, Strawbridge explained:

One could imagine maybe some hypothetical where there’d be some limited personal papers that might be relevant to a question regarding custody of official documents. But, of course, even in [the Nixon] case, what saved the constitutionality of that statute was the fact that it was not seeking the [p]resident’s personal papers, and that control remained in the executive branch.

“The first one to refuse”

Not all the justices were convinced, however. According to The Hill, Justice Elena Kagan said that Trump’s counsel was asking the court “to put a kind of 10-ton weight not he scales between the president and Congress and essentially to make it impossible for Congress to perform oversight and to carry out its function where the president is concerned.”

Meanwhile, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg expressed concern over Trump’s reluctance to turn over his returns.

“Every president voluntarily turned over his tax returns,” she said, according to The Hill. “So it gets to be a pitched battle here because President Trump is the first one to refuse to do that.”

Given the level of partisan vitriol aimed at his administration and the campaign that preceded it, many of Trump’s supporters are on board with his refusal to comply with these efforts to publicize his tax returns. Lawrence Joseph, a Washington lawyer who spoke with Accounting Today, “said the court should recognize that the goal behind the subpoenas is a political one,” the outlet reported.

“These are all transparent political attempts to get the president’s taxes,” Joseph argued. “Courts don’t have to be naive. They can recognize that.”

Only time will tell if that’s the path the justices choose to take.

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