In the three cases being argued on Tuesday, Trump has sought to prevent enforcement of subpoenas issued to his long-time accounting firm Mazars LLP and two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, for financial records including tax returns. The rulings could determine whether Trump's tax returns become public, and whether he will face an accelerated criminal investigation in NY.
Anine-judge bench had been asked to clarify the contours of Articles 25 and 26 and whether courts could examine the legality of any practice considered essential in any religion, and if so on a public interest litigation or only a petition filed by affected parties.
Supreme Court justices are asking whether there is any limit to Congress' ability to subpoena records related to the president. With two conservative Trump appointees on the nine-justice panel, the court has taken a clear turn to the right. On Tuesday, according to practice, Chief Justice John Roberts spoke first and the other justices asked questions in order of seniority.
In those cases, three Nixon appointees and two Clinton appointees, respectively, voted against the president who chose them for the high court. "It's not a limitation", Roberts told Letter, adding that the House needed to take into account that it was dealing with a co-equal branch of government.
Unlike past presidents, Trump has refused to make public his tax returns. Served upon Mazars, the once-again sweepingly broad subpoena seeks voluminous financial records of Trump, including his tax returns.
The justices could try to find a way to sidestep the heftiest separation-of-powers issues, or at least avoid the kind of definitive rulings that may cause 5-4 splits.
The Trump-appointed Kavanaugh previously worked on independent counsel Ken Starr's investigation of President Bill Clinton, which led to Clinton's impeachment in 1998. Breyer said he was anxious that the House was seeking "a lot of information, and some of it's pretty vague". "I say you'd never know because Douglas Letter, the attorney for the House, seemed woefully unprepared for the questions that were asked there", Abrams said on the Law&Crime Network, which is carrying the arguments live. She said this could violate restrictions against exposing for the sake of exposure.
The court's conservative majority repeatedly signalled concern about improper harassment of the Republican president in both instances, but - based on their questions - seemed more sceptical of the president's attempts to keep those records from getting into the hands of state prosecutors. In a separate case, a federal appeals court threw out a state murder conviction because the crime occurred on land assigned to the tribe before Oklahoma became a state and Congress never clearly eliminated the Creek Nation reservation it created in 1866.
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Rulings against Trump could result in the release of information during his campaign for reelection. Two cases in the district courts, two cases in the appellate courts.
Faced with a tough hypothetical posed by Justice Kavanaugh, Letter wouldn't completely close the door on the possibility that the Congress could seek a President's medical records for a legislative goal.
The bench led by Justice Gogoi clubbed other pending cases on subjects as varied as female genital mutilation among Dawoodi Bohras, entry of Parsi women who married inter-faith into the fire temple and entry of Muslim women into mosques and referred all these matters to a larger bench.
Justice Clarence Thomas questioned the extent Congress could act on requests for private financial information.
The New York criminal investigation was spurred by disclosures of hush-money payments by Trump to two women - pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal - who said they had past sexual relationships with him. Deutsche Bank has been one for the few banks willing to lend to Trump after a series of corporate bankruptcies and defaults starting in the early 1990s.
Even Justice Stephen Breyer, of the court's liberal wing, seemed troubled by the implications that the House's stance would have on future presidencies. He has won key victories at the high court including over his hardline immigration policies but lost a big case a year ago regarding the US census when conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court's four liberals. In the House case, Deputy Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall told the justices that lawmakers can't subpoena the president's personal records without a clear showing that the information is needed for a legitimate legislative objective. In the Vance case, Trump lawyer William Consovoy previously argued that the president is so immune that he could shoot someone in the middle of Manhattan's Fifth Avenue and not be criminally investigated. He says a president would be overwhelmed and distracted if every state prosecutor in the country could demand personal information, even if the subpoena goes to a third party.
The justices queried Trump's lawyer, Patrick Strawbridge, about whether lawmakers can ever subpoena a president's financial records.