President Trump’s lawyers, opposing the effort by House of Representatives committees to move ahead rapidly to get his financial records, have urged the Supreme Court to let that controversy go over to the new Congress that will not meet until January 3. If a delay lasts that long, the subpoenas issued by the committees would expire, and they would have to start over.
Meanwhile, the Court on Friday – with Trump consenting – ordered into immediate effect its ruling on the separate controversy over a criminal subpoena by a state prosecutor for Trump’s financial files, including tax returns. The Justices’ action may allow a lower court to move more rapidly in deciding whether to enforce the prosecutor’s demands. Trump’s lawyers will attempt to mount a number of challenges in that proceeding.
It was not unexpected that the President’s team would take a different approach on a timetable for congressional review of his finances. The President has resisted, across the board, congressional attempts to investigate him and his aides. They tried to persuade the Court to nullify the panels’ demands, but the Court refused in its ruling last week.
The House committees, in a plea filed last week with the Court, argued that time may run out of attempts to investigate Trump if the Court did not act quickly to implement its ruling. When that filing was made, the President’s lawyers said they could not decide then how to respond. Chief Justice John R. Roberts, Jr., then asked for a formal response.
In a new document submitted Friday, the President’s legal team urged the Court to wait the usual 25 days – that is, until August 3 – before putting the ruling into operation. There is no good reason to hurry matters, the filing contended.
It suggested that the 25-day span before such an order would be issued could be used by the House committees to try to negotiate a compromise with the White House over the document demands. The filing did not mention that the subpoenas were only issued after attempts to get information from the White House had met with broad resistance.
In the new filing, the President’s attorneys had a proposal of their own: let the controversy continue to play out in the lower courts after the Court puts its ruling into effect, with the aim that “the new House” – the one that will be elected on November 3 – would then have the opportunity to voice its views on a matter that may have a major impact on relations between Congress and the White House.
The Supreme Court, after getting the presidential filing, did not take immediate action.There was no indication today on when it might act on the committees’ request to keep the matter moving.
Meanwhile, in the criminal subpoena case, the Court’s decision Friday to implement “forthwith” its ruling in that case clears away any potential legal obstacle to the lower court moving ahead to see if the existing subpoena by the Manhattan prosecutor should be enforced, or whether a new, and perhaps narrower, one would have to be issued.
The New York City federal judge handling that case, District Judge Victor Morrero, on Thursday accepted a joint proposal from the prosecutor and Trump’s team that will push that proceeding at least into next month. Under that schedule, the President’s lawyers will file by July 27 a fresh legal challenge to the grand jury’s demand for tax and other records
The prosecutor then will have time to oppose that new challenge, and Trump’s team would have an opportunity to file a separate motion seeking a summary ruling against the subpoena. The Trump side may also file motions seeking to probe the factual basis for any inquiry into his records.
After the filing of those further motions, the subpoena would not be enforced until seven days after Judge Morrero decides the motions – if he decides to enforce the subpoena. There is no estimate how far into August these arrangements would take that case.
Judge Morrero had the authority to speed up the case on his own, but instead simply endorsed the schedule that the two sides had agreed to support. The prosecutor has said he wants to continue to move with dispatch, but has nevertheless been willing to work out with the Trump team a plan that could prolong the proceeding.