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Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Trump Subpoena Cases

President Trump speaks during a meeting at the White House Friday.
Evan Vucci
President Trump speaks during a meeting at the White House Friday.

Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

The U.S. Supreme Court said late Friday that it will review three lower court decisions upholding congressional and grand jury subpoenas for financial records from President Trump's longtime personal accountants and from banks he did business with.

The high court's order sets the stage for a constitutional battle over the limits of presidential power.

All three involve Trump's personal and business finances, not anything he has done as president. Trump has lost all three cases in the lower courts, and in each case, Trump's private attorneys appealed to the Supreme Court.

Even though the House Judiciary Committee voted to approve two articles of impeachment Friday against Trump, none of these cases involve the conduct at the heart of the impeachment inquiry.

First, there's a subpoena for Trump's longtime accountants, Mazars USA, issued by a grand jury in New York investigating alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and other women during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mazars USA has not objected to providing the material, but Trump sued to block his accountants from complying with the subpoena.

The second case involves a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee that was looking into whether there is a need to enact legislation compelling all presidents in the future to make public their tax returns. In addition, the committee is seeking to close what it considers other ethical loopholes in the law with regard to a president's business activities.

Trump is the only president in the modern era to have refused to make public his tax returns. For nearly a half century it has been standard for presidents to release their tax returns.

The third case involves two banks that did extensive business with Trump, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, including providing him loans during his repeated bankruptcies. The subpoenas to these banks came from the House Financial Services Committee and the Intelligence Committee.

They were looking into possible connections to Russian money laundering.

The Supreme Court has scheduled an hour of argument on the grand jury subpoena issue; the two two cases, centering on congressional subpoenas, will be heard together for an hour. The arguments are set for March. A decision is expected by June, just in time for the presidential campaign to be moving into high gear.

Some leading conservative Supreme Court advocates have suggested that these cases are low-hanging fruit, so to speak. They could be a way for the high court to show that it is not just in the pocket of a Republican president.

On the other hand, some of the justices have strong feelings about protecting the president, any president, from constant harassment; Justice Brett Kavanaugh being the most recent. His writing before joining the Supreme Court proposed that Congress enact a bill to give presidents immunity while in office.

But recall, in 1997 the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case, finding that the president — just like any other citizen — does not have immunity from civil suits.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.
Nina Totenberg is NPR's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.