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Trump’s taxes and John Roberts’ long game


The SCOTUS will hear arguments tomorrow regarding whether various financial institutions have to obey Congressional subpoenas ordering them to turn over Donald Trump’s taxes.

Every lower court which has dealt with this issue has ruled the taxes must be turned over, and the Trump administration’s legal (or “legal”) arguments to the contrary are exercises in Nixonian chutzpah of the “presidents are immune from the law” variety.

The Supremes could deal with this in three ways:

(1) Rule that the documents must be turned over.

(2) Rule that the documents must not be turned over.

(3) Rule that the question of whether they should be turned over is non-justiciable because it’s inherently political rather than legal (this is the so-called political question doctrine).

The smart and cynical money is pretty much on (3), since this would be a way of protecting Trump — although there would be no legal barrier stopping the institutions from turning the documents over, there would be no way to legally force them to do so outside of Congress’s inherent subpoena power, which exists more in theory than in practice — while allowing the Federalist Five to primly insist that their business remains merely calling balls and strikes rather than importing olive oil from the Old Country.

But I’m going to go with (1), because John Roberts. I think Roberts will see ruling against Trump as a relatively painless way to protect the SCOTUS’s institutional and cultural capital, because:

(1) Trump is probably going to lose in November anyway.

(2) How this case comes out is unlikely to have much effect on the margin on the election in any event, since the Trump cult is pretty much impervious to facts, and our famous “low information swing voters” don’t pay attention to anything more complicated than a Bud Light ad.

If that’s how Roberts is reading things, we’ll get to see Trump’s taxes, which will humiliate him no end, because they are likely to show that he’s both more or less broke and up to his neck in hock to various disorganized crime syndicates, from Deutsche Bank on down the Volga.

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