How far does the President's immunity go?

The United States Supreme Court seemed torn on Tuesday during the examination of the most political file of the year: the refusal of the American president to deliver his financial documents to Congress and to a New York prosecutor in name of a very broad vision of his presidential immunity.

“The president is not above the law,” said progressive judge Elena Kagan, speaking like her colleagues from home because of the new coronavirus pandemic.

But “we are concerned about the potential risk of harassment” of the White House tenant, added conservative magistrate John Roberts.

For more than three hours, the nine magistrates assaulted the parties with questions in an attempt to find a balance in this explosive case, which could have serious implications for the separation of powers in the United States.

“We are going to make a decision that will have value in the future, which does not only concern a president but the presidency,” said magistrate Neil Gorsuch.

Initially, it will perhaps lift the veil before the presidential election in November on the affairs of Donald Trump, who unlike all his predecessors over the years 1970 refuses to publish their tax returns.

You ask us to prevent Congress from carrying out its supervisory role as soon as it is the president

– Elena Kagan

The republican billionaire, candidate for his re-election, has made his fortune a campaign argument, but his lack of transparency feeds speculations on the extent of his wealth, on his relations with the tax authorities or on potential conflicts. of interests.

After regaining control of the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, the Democrats tried to unravel the mystery.

Three committees of the House issued from April 2019 injunctions to the former accounting firm of Donald Trump, Mazars, and two banks, Deutsche Bank and Capital One, to obtain a whole series of financial documents relating to its business between 2010 and 2018.

At the same time, the Manhattan Democratic Prosecutor has made a similar request to the Mazars cabinet in the context of an investigation into a possible violation of New York laws on the financing of electoral campaigns.

Cyrus Vance is seeking information about a payment made in 2016 to pornographic actress Stormy Daniels for buy his silence on an alleged connection with the billionaire, and which does not appear in his campaign accounts.

Posing as victim of a “witch hunt”, Donald Trump went to court to block these injunctions. After losing at trial and on appeal, he turned to the Supreme Court, where he has brought in two Conservative magistrates since his election.

In both cases, his lawyers argued that the President must be protected from parliamentary or judicial “harassment” so that he can concentrate on his work.

“Oppressive” requests

If the Court validates the injunctions of the Congress, that “will open the door to all kinds of oppressive requests”, argued M e Patrick Strawbridge in the first part of the case.

In the second part, M e Jay Sekulow called the judges to imagine that they must interrupt the president in the middle of a pandemic to ask him to devote two hours to his defense in an investigation at the other end of the country. For him, the president enjoys total immunity during his mandate.

“Criminal proceedings against a president are a violation of the Constitution,” he said.

The four progressive magistrates seemed uncomfortable with this approach. “Concretely, you are asking us to prevent Congress from carrying out its oversight role as soon as it is the president,” said Justice Kagan. “This poses a huge problem for the separation of powers,” added her sister Sonia Sotomayor.

Their Conservative colleagues also broke the lawyer for the House. “You cannot give any example of illegitimate injunctions! “Said judge Samuel Alito. “For you, there is no protection” to prevent harassment of the president, he criticized him.

In the New York case, a large part of the debates focused on the fact that the Supreme Court had forced in the years 1970 Republican President Richard Nixon to hand over tapes as part of the Watergate spy scandal, then authorized in 1997 continued civil proceedings for sexual harassment against Democrat Bill Clinton.

“I really don't see why” this case is different, launched the dean of the court, Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

The Court should render its decision before the end of June.