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Trump says he’s a victim of ‘political prosecution’ after Supreme Court rulings

The Post's David A. Fahrenthold explains the complicated case to unseal President Trump's tax returns before the Supreme Court. (Video: The Washington Post)

President Trump claimed Thursday that he was being treated differently from his predecessors after the Supreme Court ruled that a New York prosecutor can see his financial records and left the door open to Congress examining them — while Democrats said the outcome from a nearly unified court showed that the president is not above the law.

In tweets following a pair of decisions, Trump decried what he called a “political prosecution” in New York and complained that the case would continue, responding to the justices’ decision to send it back to a lower court for additional consideration.

The Supreme Court also directed additional consideration over whether House Democrats could get access to Trump’s tax returns and other records — both moves that mean that the public is unlikely to see those documents before the November election.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) reacted on July 9 to the Supreme Court ruling that said a N.Y. prosecutor may see Trump’s financial records. (Video: The Washington Post)

On Twitter, Trump seized on the first decision, complaining that the Supreme Court issued a “delay ruling that they would never have given for another President.”

“The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue,” Trump wrote. “This is all a political prosecution. … I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration! … Courts in the past have given ‘broad deference’. BUT NOT ME!”

Supreme Court says Manhattan prosecutor may see Trump’s financial records, denies Congress access for now

In both cases, the justices ruled 7 to 2, with Trump nominees Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh joining the majorities.

Asked about the decisions about four hours later, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said it was “pretty clear that this was a win for the president” and accused Democrats of “a political witch hunt against this president.” She said she had not asked Trump about his thoughts on the votes of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh.

Court documents revealed July 18, 2019, showed Michael Cohen repeatedly spoke with former president Donald Trump amid the effort to pay Stormy Daniels. (Video: The Washington Post)

Democrats pointed to the near unity among justices in arguing that Trump was being held to account after long resisting the demands of Congress and prosecutors.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, used the occasion to taunt Trump, who broke with precedent for presidential candidates by refusing to voluntarily release his tax returns.

The former vice president shared his tweet from October in which he noted that he had released 21 years of his tax returns, adding, “Release yours or shut up.”

“As I was saying,” Biden added in a new message directed at Trump.

Trump has repeatedly said he would not release his returns because they are being audited by the IRS, though no law prevents him from doing so. McEnany repeated that claim on Thursday, saying, “when they’re no longer under audit, he will release them.”

While House Democrats will not have immediate access to Trump’s financial records, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the ruling in the case related to congressional oversight is “not good news for the president of the United States.”

“What was at stake is, is this president above the law?” she told reporters at her weekly news conference.

Pressed by reporters about the inability of Congress or local prosecutors to get the tax records before the election, Pelosi said that legal scholars had warned her that there was “never any way” that the Supreme Court would rule in such a manner to immediately provide those documents to the relevant House committees.

Instead, the speaker said that the critical issue was about the precedent of congressional oversight, calling the ruling a “victory” for “the Constitution of the United States.”

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) advanced a similar argument in a statement.

“No matter how much he wishes it to be true, President Trump is not king,” Schumer said. “In a devastating blow to President Trump and his enablers in the Republican party, the Supreme Court today upheld a fundamental tenet of our democracy that no one is above the law.”

Some Democrats, however, expressed disappointment that they almost certainly will not see Trump’s tax returns before the election.

“While defeated on his claim that he’s above the law, Trump is now beyond the law until after November,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Tex.), a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which requested Trump’s tax returns. “He may not be able to outrun the law, but he’s outrunning the clock.”

Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, lamented that the court decisions were not the final word on access to Trump’s records.

“For almost four years, Democrats have been singularly focused on attacking President Trump for political gain,” he said in a statement. “Today’s decisions by the Supreme Court sadly will not end the Democrats’ partisan obsession. Americans around the country deserve better than the Democrats’ never-ending political games.”

In the first decision, the court said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. had the authority to subpoena the records from Trump’s private accounting firm. Trump had claimed an immunity from criminal investigations while in office.

Vance is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records to conceal hush payments to two women, including adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who claimed they had sex with Trump before he took office. Trump has denied those claims.

Vance is seeking Trump’s tax returns, among other records. The president has refused to make them public, unlike previous modern presidents. Because the records are for a grand jury investigation, they would probably not be disclosed before the election.

The congressional subpoenas that Trump is seeking to block followed testimony from Michael Cohen, the president’s former fixer, who told lawmakers that Trump had exaggerated his wealth to seek loans.

Two committees subpoenaed Capital One and Deutsche Bank as part of their investigation into Russian money laundering and potential foreign influence involving Trump.

Federal judges in New York and Washington — at the district court and appeals court levels — moved swiftly by court standards and repeatedly ruled against Trump and to uphold Congress’s broad investigative powers.

Chairmen of the House committees involved expressed disappointment that the case involving congressional power had been sent back to a lower court, but said they were resolved to continue scrutinizing Trump.

“The Supreme Court’s remand of this case to permit the lower courts to apply the new standard will serve to delay the Committee’s investigation — and, given the risk of foreign influence over this President, such delay is dangerous — but we remain confident that we will ultimately prevail,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) said in a statement. “And in light of the President’s tweets this morning, he appears to believe the same.”

Rachael Bade, Robert Barnes and Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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