WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump won at least a temporary reprieve from the Supreme Court earlier this week in keeping secret grand jury materials from the Russia investigation away from Democratic lawmakers. The president and his administration are counting on the justices for more help to stymie other investigations and lawsuits.
The high court is weighing Trump’s bid to block subpoenas for his tax, banking and financial records. It will soon be asked by the administration to kill a lawsuit alleging that Trump is illegally profiting from his luxury hotel near the White House. And a dispute over Congress' demand for the testimony of former White House counsel Don McGahn also could find its way to the justices before long.
Trump has predicted that the court with a conservative majority that includes two of his appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, would be more sympathetic than lower courts that have repeatedly ruled against him. And his administration has sought the court's emergency intervention at early stages of court cases far more often than both Democratic and Republican predecessors, according to data compiled by University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck.
The administration says Democrats are obsessed with embarrassing Trump at all costs. Trump has called himself a victim of “presidential harassment” and ordered his administration not to cooperate with investigations by the Democratic-led House.
In arguing for the invalidation of congressional subpoenas for Trump's private financial records, the Justice Department told the Supreme Court that the subpoenas pose “a serious risk of harassing the President and distracting him from his constitutional duties.”
McGahn should not be forced to appear before Congress, the administration argues, because he is among a band of presidential advisers who have “absolute immunity" from testifying about their interactions with the president. The full federal appeals court in Washington recently heard arguments in the case and could rule at any time.
The president's critics argue that Trump has embraced a dangerous view of the presidency as being above the law.
“The common theme throughout the Trump presidency has been a complete lack of accountability,” said Ben Berwick, a lawyer with the anti-Trump group Protect Democracy. “In case after case, the position taken by Trump and his lawyers is that nothing and no one -- not courts, not Congress, not federal or state law enforcement, not inspectors general -- can hold him accountable or act as a check on his power."