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Inside the Supreme Court's internal deliberations over Trump's taxes

July 30, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

Chief Justice John Roberts had the majority on his side after the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether President Donald Trump's financial records could be released to congressional Democrats and a New York prosecutor, according to multiple sources familiar with the inner workings of the court.

(CNN)Chief Justice John Roberts had the majority on his side after the Supreme Court heard arguments on whether President Donald Trump's financial records could be released to congressional Democrats and a New York prosecutor, according to multiple sources familiar with the inner workings of the court.

They wanted a coalition of liberal and conservative justices -- as much ideological unity as possible -- for the decisions regarding presidential power, four sources with knowledge of the internal deliberations told CNN.

The justices could not purge Trump from their thinking, the sources told CNN, but they were aware that these disputes were not just about him.

The cases encapsulated the tense conflict between the Roberts court, searching for principles that would endure for years, and Trump, making clear he views any ruling against him or his administration as a personal affront.

The President has often railed against Roberts and suggested by his own partisan-soaked remarks about the judiciary that he expects the court's four Democratic-appointed justices to automatically rule against him and his two appointees to deliver for him.

In the end, all of those justices voted against Trump in significant parts of the cases over his financial documents.

In the Trump subpoena cases, the justices had a particular reason to sweat a narrow vote.

Subpoenas were directed at Trump's accountants Mazars USA and two of his financial institutions, Deutsche Bank and Capital One. Trump's case against Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance stemmed from a New York grand jury's investigation of whether Trump, before becoming President, directed "hush money" to women who claimed to have had affairs with him.

But the 7-2 majority left Trump with limited options to try to keep his documents secret in the New York case and devised a multi-factor test for a Congress seeking to subpoena a president.

Prompted by a memo from Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the justices asked each side to address whether the case between Trump and House Democrats was too political for a court to resolve.

In their private teleconference after the May arguments, sources told CNN, the justices were still dividing sharply, offering competing legal rationales and struggling with how far they wanted to go to shield the President or force him to produce materials.

As they first discussed the New York case, CNN has learned, the justices split 5-4 to affirm a lower court judgment against Trump and his lawyers' assertion of immunity.

In the House dispute, the justices began with a possible six-justice majority to throw out a lower court decision that had declared Congress has broad authority to investigate and issue subpoenas for the Trump financial documents as part of its legislative mission.

Several justices came to the cases with distinct experience in the executive or legislative branches: Roberts, Kavanaugh and Justice Elena Kagan had held high-level positions in presidential administrations: Roberts for Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush, Kavanaugh for George W.

As Trump appointees, Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch were traversing their own issues in the disputes over the President's tax and financial records.

But, Roberts wrote, the House had not sufficiently demonstrated in lower court proceedings that it needed Trump's financial records for its legislative goals.

Roberts also said that lower court judges who had previously heard Trump's objections to the subpoenas failed to sufficiently weigh possible separation-of-powers implications.

In his opinion addressing Trump's claim that he should be immune from the New York grand jury subpoena, Roberts used as his touchstone a decision by Chief Justice John Marshall, presiding over the treason trial of Aaron Burr, to permit a subpoena against President Thomas Jefferson.

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