WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump appears to be tired of losing at the Supreme Court.
He lashed out Thursday after the justices ruled that he is not automatically immune from a state grand jury subpoena. Trump is fighting to prevent a Manhattan grand jury from getting access to his tax records as part of an investigation into hush-money payments he made to two women, and even the justices he appointed, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, concurred with the majority opinion by Chief Justice John Roberts.
The defeat for Trump, and the privileges of the presidency, comes on the heels of recent high-profile public policy losses at the court. Gorsuch wrote an opinion holding that employers can’t discriminate against gay and transgender people on June 15, and Trump’s effort to end Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was rejected three days later.
This time, though, it’s personal. And in a tweetstorm, Trump reacted that way.
“Won all against the Federal Government and the Democrats send everything to politically corrupt New York,” Trump wrote. “Now the Supreme Court gives a delay ruling that they would never have given for another president.”
He’s been left more vulnerable to embarrassment and prosecution, and for a president who prizes loyalty, the votes of Kavanaugh and Gorsuch may have felt like a betrayal. Moreover, their judgment again undercuts a key messaging point of Trump’s campaign: that his Supreme Court picks will deliver victories for conservative Republicans.
The personal aspect is underscored by a simple truth: The high court actually punted, legally speaking.
In fact, Trump’s personal lawyer, Jay Sekulow, described the president’s team as “pleased” with the court’s opinions Thursday in a pair of cases on Trump’s records.
In the New York case, the justices rebuffed Trump’s argument that he isn’t subject to a subpoena from a state court. That’s a loss, but the justices gave him a route to continue his fight rather than order companies to hand the records over to the Manhattan grand jury. Similarly, another ruling handed down Thursday left it to a lower federal court to sort out whether to enforce House subpoenas for Trump’s financial records.
From a legal standpoint, there’s little risk to Trump before Election Day.
But the law doesn’t always line up with political interests. The issue will hang over his head as he seeks a second term. He would have been far better off politically if the high court had sided with him and put an end to both cases.
The unifying theme of both cases is that Congress and prosecutors have some room to subpoena the president’s records but not for purely partisan purposes or with ambiguity. In practical terms, that means Trump isn’t in the clear in either case.
As is often the case, the official…