February 22: In a significant defeat for Donald Trump, the supreme court on Monday declined to step in to halt the turnover of his tax records to a prosecutor in New York City, the Guardian reported.
The court’s action was the apparent culmination of a lengthy legal battle that had reached the high court before. Trump said it was part of “the continuing political persecution of President Donald J Trump”.
Having left the White House on 20 January, Trump has lost the legal protections of office. He faces jeopardy on multiple fronts.
In New York, on top of the investigation by the Manhattan district attorney, the state attorney general, Letitia James, is investigating the Trump Organization. In Georgia, prosecutors are investigating Trump’s attempts to strong-arm local Republican officials into overturning his election defeat.
Trump has also been sued for inciting the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January, when a mob of his supporters sought to stop the counting of electoral college votes. Lawmakers were threatened and five people died, one an officer of the Capitol police.
Trump’s tax records were once the holy grail of US political and investigative reporting, after he refused to follow common practice and release them during his run for president in 2016.
In September, under the headline “Trump taxes show chronic losses and years of tax avoidance”, the New York Times published sensational details, among them that Trump paid just $750 in federal income tax in 2016 and 2017.
The records at issue in Monday’s supreme court ruling in the New York City case are not supposed to become public, as they are part of a criminal investigation. But the high court’s action is a blow to Trump nonetheless because he has long fought on so many fronts to keep such records shielded from view.
In his statement on Monday, Trump repeated previous comments about the investigation, calling it “a fishing expedition” and “a continuation of the greatest witch-hunt in history”.
The supreme court waited months to act. The last written brief in the case was filed on 19 October but before issuing its order a court including three Trump appointees waited through the election, Trump’s challenges to his defeat, which were almost all laughed out of court, and a month after Trump left office.
The court offered no explanation for the delay. The legal issue before the justices did not involve whether Trump was due special deference because he was president.