One of the most prestigious appellate circuits in the country delivered a devastating blow to Trump today, ruling that his accounting firm had to honor a Congressional subpoena for Trump’s taxes, thereby teeing-up the political “case of the century” for further review in front of the entire DC Circuit or directly to the SCOTUS. The courts will determine what we learn about Trump’s money. With Trump, it is always about the money, always. Unless and until we know about the money, we won’t know the most fundamental motivating factor for Trump.
This is the second loss for Trump in this particular case, involving Congress and his accounting firm. He lost in front of the district court judge, and he lost today 2-1 in the DC circuit court of appeals. Trump’s team will now need to make a decision, appeal the ruling to the entire DC circuit, who may choose to hear it en banc, meaning each judge votes, or take it directly to the SCOTUS. In my mind, Trump’s team is always attempting to buy time, and will attempt to get it in front of the entire DC circuit. I put it at 50-50 whether they decide to hear it at all.
It will end up at the Supreme Court, not a question about it.
The only open question remains the timing. There are procedures by which the House can ask that everything be “expedited,” meaning “rushed” by events that need resolution. The fact that the House has begun impeachment hearings helps, though it would seem that judges sympathetic to the House would be sympathetic with or without an impeachment hearing. Everyone knows the stakes.
To be honest, I am not sure of the procedures utilized or the standard the SCOTUS uses to weigh whether to expedite a case. I did a brief Google search (we aim to serve), but it wasn’t apparent in the first two pages, and my billing rate skyrockets up if I have to do much more than that. Suffice it to say that there is a process by which the SCOTUS will review a case on an expedited basis, and there is precedent for doing so within the impeachment context in the Nixon case. Whether the court ultimately determines to expedite review will be almost as political as the ultimate outcome. If Trump’s lawyers are vehemently fighting for a delay, it signals to the Trumpers on the court that Trump desperately needs a delay. It signals to the others that, well, that there is something in Trump’s taxes he needs delayed from release for as long as possible.
It has been so very easy to predict the course of events in this impeachment proceeding. Long about late summer, this entire matter started to clarify, and we’ve all been with them, step for step. But, here we enter a world where no one outside the courthouses knows exactly what is going on. Trump and his team may have already gotten word to certain justices as to what needs to be done. That would be risky, both for Trump and the justice, and to tell you the truth I don’t know if it happens all the time, or never. I just don’t.
Here is what I know. The law is damned clear. The House can request Trump’s taxes, the language is unambiguous. Trump’s lawyers state that Congress needs a legislative purpose, and the House has no “legislative purpose.” I dearly wish I could respond to that in oral argument: “First, impeachment is a legislative purpose, and that is why it is entrusted solely to the House in the constitution. Second, even without impeachment, the House has a legislative purpose, it might consider passing a law requiring all presidential candidates to have provided their taxes to congress, or even divesting in private business. Third, “legislative purpose” is self-defining. If the House deems it needs to see the tax returns, that in and of itself is – by definition, a legislative purpose. And last, we can ignore the rock-solid reasoning above because the law itself doesn’t require Congress meet any standard for legislative purpose, it says they must produce the taxes.
Trump’s team will argue it is all political, a witch hunt fishing expedition. Yeah, fck you. It is political, just like your stonewalling and use of executive privilege is all political. It is time for the House to file what we in the business call “a motion to win.” There is no such thing, but it’s still needed.
Here is what we know so far. Trump is 0-3 in courts in his attempt to hide his taxes, between this case and the NY case. Yes, such results are largely meaningless if one is big enough to attract the attention of courts above. It is the last court that matters, not the most “right.” But, today we took a big step in getting to that “last court.”
I have said for a long time that Trump’s financial documents will ultimately usher in his undoing. Of course, Rudy is doing all he can to find a way to have Trump fall apart even prior to having the financial underpinnings disclosed. But, the safe bet is still with the financial documentation.
Now, one last bold prediction: Trump will not turn these documents over. He will step down in exchange for not having to turn them over. Or, he will somehow ignore the SCOTUS’s order, highly risky, but if ever there was a guy who’d attempt it …
He has fought so damn hard to keep his financial documents out of the public’s hands that it is clear to me that he knows he cannot survive if they see the light of day. It is also becoming increasingly clear that we’re not talking political survival, we are more likely talking personal and financial survival. I just don’t see him trying to withstand the blowback if people see he’s deeply in debt to Russian entities, and that the numbers simply don’t add up.
Everyone says that Trump is a fighter. Wrong. He’s a quitter. He has declared bankruptcy many times, walking away with his money to fight another day. I truly believe that if push comes to shove in this matter, he’ll choose to walk away again, especially if his money and freedom ride on him reaching a deal.
We’re closer, that part I do know.
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