The President’s Tax Returns and the Supreme Court

The Story:

On Tuesday, May 12, the US Supreme Court held arguments on two controversies over the release of President Donald Trump’s tax returns. One of the cases concerned a committee of the House of Representatives seeking the returns as part of its “oversight” responsibility. The other involved a state’s (New York) criminal processes and a subpoena served on an accounting firm in possession of these records. Former Presidents Nixon and Clinton (pictured) haunted the proceedings.


Trump is asserting what is known as “executive privilege,” the claim that the office of President carries a zone of permissible secrecy as is necessary to accomplish the responsibilities set out in Article II of the Constitution. But this alleged privilege itself is not mentioned in the Constitution, and analogous claims against otherwise proper requests for information have failed when pressed by Presidents Richard Nixon and William Jefferson Clinton.

The Thing to Know:

The course of the argument last Tuesday suggested that the decision, when it comes, will not break down along stereotypical partisan lines. Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, seemed to be especially resistant to the notion that the President has a privilege to decide what he will or won’t make public.



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