Trump explodes over Supreme Court ruling
The US Supreme Court has rejected former president Donald Trump's effort to conceal his financial records from prosecutors, ending a years-long legal battle and paving the way for a grand jury to see his tax returns.
Mr Trump had petitioned the Supreme Court for a stay on a lower court ruling, which was issued on October 7 last year.
That ruling required the former president's accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena compelling it to turn over eight years of Mr Trump's tax records to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
Mr Vance's office has been investigating Mr Trump's company, the Trump Organisation, for evidence of financial crimes.
Today the Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority, rejected Mr Trump's request without comment and with no noted dissents.
"The application for a stay presented to Justice Breyer and referred to the court is denied," its one-sentence order declared.
Mr Vance, a Democrat, reacted to the decision with a similarly brief statement.
"The work continues," he said.
Last September, Mr Vance's office warned Mr Trump's lawyers it would move to enforce the subpoena immediately after the then-president's legal options were exhausted.
"We anticipate that the Supreme Court, after briefing, will deny your request for interim relief, at which point our office will be free to enforce the Mazars subpoena, regardless of whether your client decides to continue to seek certiorari," it wrote.
Today, Mazars said it remained "committed to fulfilling all of our professional and legal obligations", suggesting it would comply with the subpoena.
Mr Trump is the only modern president to refuse to publicly release his tax records. Starting in the 2016 election campaign, and continuing until the end of his presidency, Mr Trump said he could not release them until the Internal Revenue Service was finished auditing them.
There was never any rule or law preventing Mr Trump from releasing his own records.
Today's Supreme Court decision does not mean the tax documents will be made public; they can, however, be shown to the grand jury in New York.
"It's the end of the road for the president's years-long battle to keep his tax returns away either from Congress or from Cyrus Vance, the New York prosecutor who has a grand jury looking at President Trump's personal and corporate finances," NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams said.
He speculated that the months-long delay between Mr Trump's request and the Supreme Court's decision may have been due to political considerations.
"My guess is that the court wanted to stay out of any suggestion that it was getting involved in politics, so held back (from) doing anything during the campaign, and then during the fights over the election, and then during the impeachment process," said Williams.
"Now that's all clear, the Supreme Court's brief order has come out."
He said the grand jury would probably see Mr Trump's tax returns "almost immediately".
Mr Vance's investigation began with the hush money payments of $US130,000 that Mr Trump's personal lawyer Michael Cohen - who has since turned on his former boss - paid adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election to keep quiet about an alleged extramarital affair.
Mr Cohen said Mr Trump reimbursed him for the expense of the pay-offs to Ms Daniels with a series of cheques disguised as monthly payments for legal services.
In testimony before Congress, he accused the former president of being "part of a criminal conspiracy of financial fraud".
Mr Trump, for his part, denied even having an affair with Ms Daniels.
"The Supreme Court has now proclaimed that no one is above the law. Trump will, for the first time, have to take responsibility for his own dirty deeds," Mr Cohen said today.
The New York investigation has since expanded dramatically to focus on potential fraud at the Trump Organisation.
According to Reuters, prosecutors have recently hired forensic accountants. They have also hired Mark Pomerantz, a former prosecutor with experience in pursuing white collar crime.
Mr Trump reacted to the Supreme Court's decision with a lengthy statement. Here it is in full. All emphasis is his.
"This investigation is a continuation of the greatest political witch hunt in the history of our country," the former president said.
"Whether it was the never-ending $32 million Mueller Hoax, which already investigated everything that could possibly be investigated, 'Russia, Russia, Russia,' where there was a finding of 'No Collusion', or two ridiculous 'Crazy Nancy' inspired impeachment attempts where I was found NOT GUILTY. It just never ends!
"So now, for more than two years, New York City has been looking at almost every transaction I've ever done, including seeking tax returns which were done by among the biggest and most prestigious law and accounting firms in the US.
"The Tea Party was treated far better by the IRS than Donald Trump. The Supreme Court should never have let this 'fishing expedition' happen, but they did. This is something which has never happened to a president before, it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and state, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo.
"These are attacks by Democrats willing to do anything to stop the almost 75 million people (the most votes, by far, ever gotten by a sitting president) who voted for me in the election - an election which many people, and experts, feel that I won. I agree!
"The new phenomenon of 'headhunting' prosecutors and attorneys general - who try to take down their political opponents using the law as a weapon - is a threat to the very foundation of our liberty. That's what is done in third world countries.
"Even worse are those who run for prosecutorial or attorney general offices in far-left states and jurisdictions pledging to take out a political opponent. That's fascism, not justice - and that is exactly what they are trying to do with respect to me, except that the people of our country won't stand for it.
"In the meantime, murders and violent crime are up in New York City by record numbers, and nothing is done about it. Our elected officials don't care. All they focus on is the persecution of President Donald J. Trump.
"I will fight on, just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win!"
As always, I am obliged to note that President Joe Biden won the election last November. He won the electoral college vote 306-232, with a popular vote margin of about seven million.
Mr Trump and his allies launched more than 60 legal challenges in the aftermath of the election in an attempt to change the result, almost all of which were thrown out of court, including by conservative judges appointed by Mr Trump.
Those judges frequently berated Mr Trump's lawyers for offering no credible evidence to back up their claims of widespread voter fraud.
Mr Trump's continuing claims that he won the election are false.
Originally published as Trump explodes over Supreme Court ruling