Two court decisions this week concerning President Trump provide an interesting contrast. The Supreme Court stayed a D.C. Circuit decision that would have required President Trump to provide his tax returns to House Democrats:
The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily blocked the release of President Trump's tax records sought by congressional Democrats. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform had subpoenaed Trump's New York accounting firm in April to produce those documents.
Last month, a divided three-judge panel had ruled that the House committee had the authority to subpoena the records from Mazars USA, Trump's longtime accounting firm. Earlier this month, the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected an appeal by Trump's lawyers to reconsider the case. The president's team had argued that the House committee had no legitimate legislative purpose for gaining access to the tax records.
The high court's hold would allow Trump's lawyers to file an appeal arguing against the release of the documents. The court gave the president's legal team until Dec. 5 to file its petition for a full briefing and hearing by the justices.
A D.C. District Court judge who was appointed by President Obama decided that former White House Counsel Don McGahn had to comply with a congressional subpoena:
A federal judge ruled Monday that former White House counsel Don McGahn must submit to a subpoena and testify to Congress about his time in the White House as part of the impeachment inquiry against President Trump.
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, an Obama appointee, rejected the Justice Department’s claim that McGahn has “absolute immunity.” She also pushed back against the DOJ’s argument that federal courts should not involve themselves in conflicts between the legislative and executive branches of government.
“DOJ promotes a conception of separation-of-powers principles that gets these constitutional commands exactly backwards,” Jackson wrote in her decision. “In reality, it is a core tenet of this Nation’s founding that the powers of a monarch must be split between the branches of the government to prevent tyranny.”
The Trump administration said it plans to appeal the ruling.
The Supreme Court allowed time for the tax return controversy to be fully litigated, while the Obama-appointed judge disregarded claims of executive and attorney-client privilege, thereby threatening to undermine the ability of future presidents to receive candid advise from their counsels. The contrasting level of the decisions are also noteworthy. One is an Obama appointee against Trump while the one for Trump was by the highest court on the land made up appointees of multiple Presidents.