The Supreme Court has ruled that a New York prosecutor can have access to US President Donald Trump’s tax records but Congress – which has been seeking them for more than a year – cannot.
The ruling returns the case to lower courts, with no clear prospect for when the case might ultimately be resolved.
Importantly, both cases were sent back to the lower courts, meaning that the American public will not see Mr Trump’s tax history before election day.
It was a double-edged sword for the President, on one hand, the court handed Mr Trump a big loss, ruling that he is not “categorically immune” from having his tax records released to a New York prosecutor.
But the 7-2 outcome over their release to congress was in part a short-term victory for Mr Trump, who has strenuously sought to keep his financial records private.
The court upheld a prosecutor’s demand for Mr Trump’s tax returns as part of a criminal investigation that includes hush-money payments to women who claim they had affairs with Mr Trump.
The court ruled 7-2 in a case in which it heard arguments by telephone in May because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The records are held by Mr Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, which has said it would comply with a court order.
It probably will be at least several weeks before the court issues a formal judgment that would trigger the turnover of the records.
The court rejected arguments by Mr Trump’s lawyers and the Justice Department that the president is immune from investigation while he holds office or that a prosecutor must show a greater need than normal to obtain the records.
The president claimed he was being targeted by the courts – suggesting in a tweet that they have given previous presidents “broad deference”.
“This is a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one – not even a president – is above the law,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, in relation to the ruling in his case.
Mr Trump’s two high court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, joined the majority.