By Shabtai Gold/DPA, Washington
The US Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a New York prosecutor is entitled to potentially gain access to President Donald Trump's financial records, including tax returns, but blocked Congress from receiving many similar documents, for now.
The two separate decisions were both decided in 7-2 rulings and mean the documents will, for the time being, continue to remain a secret from the public.
The congressional case was the one with more political exposure for the president, particularly with an election looming in four months and the likelihood of leaks from the legislative body.
However, in a blow to the president, in the case of the Manhattan prosecutor seeking a grand jury subpoena for his accounting firms, the Supreme Court rejected Trump's arguments about him having special immunity as a sitting president.
The ruling potentially paves the way for the district attorney to get the records, though more legal wrangling lies ahead.
"No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding," Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion.
The court did not directly order the documents handed over, and the ruling indicated that the president could try to fight the subpoenas at lower levels, like any other person, on regular legal grounds, such as with regards to the scope of the request.
A lawyer for Trump said the legal team will continue to fight both ongoing cases for the president's financial records in lower courts.
"We are pleased that in the decisions issued today, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the President's financial records," Jay Sekulow said.
"We will now proceed to raise additional Constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts," he wrote on Twitter.
While Trump initially raged on Twitter in a series of posts, he later told reporters that he was "satisfied" with some aspects of the rulings, though he continued to blast Congress and the case in Manhattan as "purely political" prosecutions.
The White House said Trump was "gratified" by the decisions, noting that for now, the financial records are not being handed over.
However, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, in a statement, was upbeat, calling the ruling "a tremendous victory for our nation's system of justice...
no one — not even a president — is above the law."
Since the New York case is before a grand jury, the documents would likely remain under wraps for some time, at least, owing to the inherent secrecy of such proceedings.
The case is potentially more of a legal problem for Trump down the line, but one with less political liability now.
In the congressional case, House of Representatives committees were seeking broad access to Trump's records.
The top court raised separation of powers concerns and indicated that more specific reasons needed to be included in demands for such information, thereby not totally closing the door on lawmakers getting the records.
The case moves back to lower courts and may drag on for months or longer.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi vowed that lawmakers will continue to fight for access to the records in court.
"A careful reading of the Supreme Court rulings related to the president's financial records is not good news for President Trump," Pelosi said, adding that in her view, the decision reinforced the role of congressional oversight on the president.
"Congress' constitutional responsibility to uncover the truth continues, specifically related to the president's Russia connection that he is hiding," said Pelosi, the top Democrat in Congress.
Trump was fighting to block both the prosecutor's subpoenas and the ones from Congress.
Trump argued that lawmakers had no legislative need for his documents, while the Democratic-led committees said they required the records to fulfil their oversight duties.
The documents could shed light on Trump's foreign financial dealings,
whether he fully paid taxes, the extent of his wealth and whether he violated campaign finance laws, in particular through hush money payments.
In a statement, Deutsche Bank, one of the financial institutions with Trump records in the case, said it will "of course abide by a final decision by the courts."
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