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The Supreme Court heard oral arguments on Tuesday, via teleconference, about the power to investigate the president.
President Donald Trump has objected to subpoenas for his tax returns and other financial records. New York City prosecutors have demanded the documents as part of a criminal investigation into the president’s hush money payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels, while the House of Representatives has been seeking to investigate the conflicts of interests of a president who still owns a sprawling business.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that a president shouldn’t be subject to investigation while in office. “We're asking for temporary presidential immunity,” attorney Jay Sekulow said.
Andrea Bernstein of “Trump, Inc.” and NYU law professor Melissa Murray listened to the oral arguments and chatted with co-host Ilya Marritz about what struck them. A few takeaways:
• Fights between the legislative and executive branch are not normally heard in front of the Supreme Court. Congress and the White House have typically negotiated solutions to such disputes. “And the fact that we're in court is because this president hasn’t acceded to those norms,” Murray said.
• A phrase that came up repeatedly: “presidential harassment.” It’s language that Trump frequently uses on Twitter and his lawyers raised in court. The assertion, Murray said, “has transformed what would be considered, I think in other times, ordinary and essential legislative oversight into what accounts to bullying, harassment and mere partisan politics.”
• A number of the justices — including the liberal Stephen Breyer — expressed sympathy for the White House’s arguments against the House’s demands for documents, but they were far more skeptical about the claim that the president is immune from even criminal investigation. “The court seemed not to be amenable to that kind of argument at all,” Murray said.
The justices are expected to deliver a decision in the cases — Trump v. Mazars, Trump v. Deutsche Bank and Trump v. Vance — this summer.
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