Supreme Court to Take On Three Cases Related to Trump's Finances in 2020: What You Need to Know

The years-long legal showdown over Donald Trump's tax returns may finally come to an end in 2020 after the Supreme Court takes on three cases regarding the president's financial records.

Trump is the first commander-in-chief in decades not to voluntarily make his tax records available to the public. He's also the only president in modern history not to divest his business entities upon entering office, which has raised several ethical and legal issues during his presidency.

One case involves a Manhattan District Attorney investigation into the Trump Organization's potential violations of New York state law, such as improperly recording wealth estimates to avoid paying taxes or insurance. The district attorney is seeking eight years of Trump's tax returns.

The other two cases involve subpoenas issued by House Democrats who are seeking records from the president, his children and his businesses as part of investigations into possible conflicts of interest and foreign influence.

Trump and his legal team have argued that these requests for his financial records amount to politically motivated attacks, and his lawyers say that Trump should be protected from criminal investigations through presidential immunity.

The arguments are scheduled for March and a decision could be reached by June 2020, which will be right in the middle of the presidential election.

Here's a breakdown of each case with everything you need to know:

Manhattan District Attorney Investigation

Manhattan prosecutors are looking into hush-money payments made to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. Investigators are looking at why the president and his company, the Trump Organization, reimbursed his attorney Michael Cohen for payments he made to adult film star Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election. As part of the probe, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance subpoenaed Mazars USA, Trump's accounting firm, for documents relating to the inquiry.

The Supreme Court will have to decide whether Mazars USA has to respond to the grand jury subpoena obtained by Vance. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals previously ruled that the accounting firm had to comply with the Manhattan District Attorney's request to hand over the records.

In this case, Trump requested that the Supreme Court get involved after the lower court ruled against him. On November 14, the president petitioned the high court to hear the case.

"That the Constitution would empower thousands of state and local prosecutors to embroil the president in criminal proceedings is unimaginable," Trump's legal team wrote in the petition. They added that the "practical threat that state criminal process poses to a president cannot be overstated."

Trump has repeatedly publicly denied the alleged relationships with the two women.

Cohen, who was involved in hush-money payments to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, is serving a three-year prison sentence for a slew of crimes including tax fraud, bank fraud and lying to Congress.

House Committee Subpoenas to Deutsche Bank, Capital One

The House Financial Services Committee has subpoenaed a broad range of financial documents from two banks that have dealt with Trump and members of his family.

The committees say they need the documents from Deutsche Bank and Capital One as part of an investigation into efforts by foreign entities to influence the U.S. political process to determine whether foreign agents have financial leverage over the president.

donald trump SCOTUS financial cases
President Donald Trump makes a video call to the troops stationed worldwide at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach Florida, on December 24, 2019. Trump has asked the Supreme Court to weigh in on several court cases requesting access to his financial records. Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

The subpoenas seek the president's bank and brokerage account records, loan records, lines of credit and other documents from bank employees that deal with Trump and his family. Trump and several members of his family sued the two banks this year seeking to block them from responding to the subpoenas. The president's legal team has argued that the subpoenas issued by House Democrats had "no legitimate or legislative purpose."

But a federal appeals court ruled in December that House Democrats could enforce the subpoenas.

"The Committees' interests in pursuing their constitutional legislative function is a far more significant public interest than whatever public interest inheres in avoiding the risk of a Chief Executive's distraction arising from disclosure of documents reflecting his private financial transactions," Judge Jon Newman wrote in the ruling.

House Committee Investigating Whether Trump Improperly Inflated, Deflated Assets

The third case also involves a subpoena issued to Mazars USA, Trump's accounting firm, by the House Oversight Committee. The committee has argued that it needs the documents because they can shed light on whether existing financial disclosure and ethics laws are working.

House Democrats issued the subpoena in April after Cohen testified before Congress that Trump had improperly inflated and deflated estimates of his assets and liabilities. Cohen said that monetary figures were adjusted to make Trump seem like a better credit risk or to lower his insurance premiums.

Late Rep. Elijah Cummings, who was the head of the Oversight Committee at the time the subpoena was issued, wrote in a memo that the request was also based on "corroborating documents" that "raise grave questions about whether the President has been accurate in his financial reporting."

The subpoena was upheld by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in October.

"Contrary to the President's arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply," Judge David Tatel wrote in the ruling.

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