Late Friday afternoon the Supreme Court issued a ruling that will block any formal, legally sanctioned disclosure of Trump’s tax returns until about next summer, at the earliest. Even if the Court allows the release of those records in any of the three pending cases, it will take months for prosecutors in New York and Congressional investigators to comb through this rat’s nest of financial obfuscation and piece together their meaning. Thanks to the Court’s decision, it is unlikely that we will know the real story of the Trump Administration before the next election.
Our Supreme Court has chosen to use its power to protect the President and strip us of our ability to hold him accountable for crimes.
There is no legal issue of any credibility at stake in these cases, no reason the Court needs to accept this appeal at all. If Justices felt the need to grant the President some veneer of respect by hearing the matter, they could have expedited this case and resolved it within weeks. Bush v. Gore made the journey from initial filing in Federal Court to a final Supreme Court decision in a single month, and that case involved serious unresolved constitutional issues. This case, though deeply important, involves absolutely no legal ambiguity. The President’s counsel has raised no interesting or novel theories, no coherent dissents have been filed by lower courts, and there is no conflict among the courts to settle. All three cases sailed through their appeals, because the law is so abundantly clear and the gravity of the matters so intense.
Let’s be absolutely clear about the decision four Supreme Court Justices just made. Our Supreme Court chose to use their power to derail a criminal investigation of the President. This is the second Bush v. Gore, but this time they are working to reelect a criminal.
We are alone. No grown-ups are coming to save us. At every step, our political system has failed this stress-test, as leaders we chose to protect us hedged, equivocated, and ultimately prioritized their power over the survival of representative government.
In at least one of the three court cases seeking Trump’s financial records, Congressional investigators were looking for conclusive proof that the President and his family are involved in money laundering for our foreign enemies. This is not a case about blowjobs or hanging chads. Prosecutors are attempting to protect the republic from a leader who, they have reason to believe, is being paid by our enemies. The Supreme Court has, for no legal reason and without holding a hearing, halted that investigation at least until next year, and very likely killed it altogether.
What’s in Trump’s tax returns? That’s addressed in more detail here, but those records probably contain the only honest account of Trump’s life and business interests. Why do Trump’s finances matter? It’s an open secret that Trump’s been laundering money for the Russian mob and others for decades. Those records will explain the logic behind Trump’s otherwise “erratic” or “unpredictable” policy choices. They will also provide a template to understand the pipeline of foreign money flowing into our wider political system.
Why is this disclosure so important? Right now, our fascists are able to expand their power smoothly and gradually under the color of law. Trump laziest or most incompetent lackeys are still going to jail, but that hollow spectacle of due process continues to shield the expansion of unaccountable power. Our fascists are succeeding because they haven’t been forced to openly defy legal authority, at least not yet. Why aren’t Americans in the streets? Because we continue to “trust the process.” We trust the process because leaders continue to pretend to respect law, at least at the core.
Public disclosure of Trump’s finances will strip away the fig leaf of legitimacy on which this regime’s power depends. Even if prosecutors hesitated to act on disclosures from those returns, journalists would be able to build a case, a la Epstein, so powerful that authorities would be backed into a choice. Either abandon the façade of legality entirely, or sacrifice Trump. At this point, the law could still be forced operate toward the public interest, given enough pressure.
More to the point, Trump’s businesses operate in large part on secrecy. Strip the secrecy they offer to their clients, and those businesses become radioactive. If the Trump family lost the capacity to profit in secrecy, they would lose the ability to profit at all.
This arbitrary delay granted by the Supreme Court blocks investigations of Trump’s money laundering from producing any outcomes before the election. After the election, regardless who wins, these investigations are certain to die.
If Trump wins, the gains he’s already established in our political system, particularly inside the Department of Justice, will be cemented. These matters will quietly go away, just like the Epstein case. If a Democrat wins, they’ll almost certainly pull a Ford, letting this matter lapse “in the interest of unity.”
No one who earns a living in politics on either side wants our system to start investigating the ethical failings of former officeholders. It is in their deep personal interest to let sleeping dogs lie. Without even hearing arguments or issuing a decision, our Supreme Court has snuffed out any practical hope that Trump will be held accountable for his crimes.
Since the authorities have for all practical purposes immunized the President, we are left with only extra-legal avenues to bring this crucial evidence into light. The public has to 1) recognize the central importance of this issue, 2) pressure our political representatives to take this matter seriously, and 3) take matters into our own hands, by any and all available means, bringing intolerable pressure on those who continue to shield the President from accountability.
America didn’t learn the contents of the Pentagon Papers through the orderly functioning of due process, and they never would have. Trump’s tax records are sitting, most likely in printed, paper form, in a facility or facilities under the supervision of Mazars. They are also very likely available in digital form in Mazars’ systems. Many other financial institutions, including Deutsche Bank, are holding full or partial copies. Americans need this disclosure to protect the survival of our political system.
The IRS Commissioner, who works for you, is also under a valid subpoena to provide Trump’s records to Congress. The Supreme Court has issued a stay against *enforcement* of that subpoena, but he remains within his legal authority to follow the law and deliver those records to Congress. Charles Rettig should sit in jail until he complies with Congress’ subpoena. He should be chained next to the other Trump Administration officials who are refusing to comply with lawful subpoenas.
Yes, the courts would probably let him out, at least on the question of the tax return subpoena. But he should then be hauled right back into Congress, or to jail if necessary, and made to answer questions about his relationship to the President and his personal financial connections to Trump businesses. The cost of collusion must rise.
Trump’s collaborators are cowards and opportunists. Make it mildly uncomfortable to protect Donald Trump, and his lackeys will melt.
Leaders at Mazars should be forced to testify before Congress about the extent of their relationships, at the organizational and personal level, to Trump’s family businesses. Individual leadership figures at Mazars’ US operation, listed here, are now public figures of tremendous national importance. They could, by official or unofficial means, see those returns brought into daylight if they wanted to. If the cost of protecting Trump rose high enough for them personally, you would find yourself reading an official copy of Donald Trump’s tax returns regardless of law, injunctions, subpoenas, or any court decision.
No one at Mazars should be able to do business outside the cloud of their collusion with this regime. No one should be able to walk into a Mazars office without facing the angry public gathered around their door. Similarly, Deutsche Bank leadership should be under tremendous, personal pressure. Frankly, they are already in trouble thanks to decades of corrupt practices. But they aren’t in nearly enough trouble, and their leaders still walk the streets in peace.
Our leaders have failed. Our justice system has failed. The guardrails we counted on to protect us from being exploited by criminals have failed. We live now under a nascent fascist regime, and without extraordinary public pressure to disrupt their expanding power, representative democracy will soon be a memory. Bringing Donald Trump’s financial records into daylight is the key to reestablishing democratic legitimacy in the US, and likely to protecting liberal democracy globally. Trump’s financial records are a big deal.
Right now, nothing would frustrate the plans of American fascists like the disclosure of the President’s financial arrangements. We need those records by any means necessary. The people who are protecting this regime by withholding those records should be made to pay a price for their collusion that they will consider too high to continue. Organized, disciplined public pressure may yet succeed where our public institutions and the so-called “rule of law” have failed.