The Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether President Trump can block the release of his financial records, setting the stage for a blockbuster ruling on the power of presidents to resist demands for information from prosecutors and Congress.
The court’s ruling, expected by June, could give the public a look at information the president has gone to extraordinary lengths to protect. Or the justices could rule that Mr. Trump’s financial affairs are not legitimate subjects of inquiry so long as he remains in office.
Either way, the court is now poised to produce a once-in-a-generation statement on presidential accountability.
The case will test the independence of the court, which is dominated by Republican appointees, including two named by Mr. Trump. In earlier Supreme Court cases in which presidents sought to avoid providing evidence, the rulings did not break along partisan lines.
To the contrary, the court was unanimous in ruling against Presidents Richard M. Nixon and Bill Clinton in such cases, with Nixon and Clinton appointees voting against the presidents who had placed them on the court. The Nixon case led to his resignation in the face of mounting calls for his impeachment. The Clinton caseled to Mr. Clinton’s impeachment, though he survived a Senate vote on his removal.
The thing about this Court is that the only real unresolved question is whether there are 5 votes for the Trump administration’s frivolous and authoritarian arguments or just four. Admittedly, the unanimity of U.S. v. Nixon is somewhat misleading — the opinion is an incoherent mess in part because the Court was severely divided and Burger’s instinct was to side with the president who nominated him. But ultimately the Court’s felt need to appear united meant something, and ultimately they all voted the right way (including the three eligible Nixon appointees.) Those days are over. It’s now just a question of whether Roberts wants the 5-4 decision to be constitutional law or not.