Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Major setback for Donald Trump: US Supreme Court refuses to shield former President’s tax records

The US Supreme Court has handed former president Donald Trump a major setback, overturning his efforts to block his tax returns case that holds peril for his future.

By Kenneth Tiven in the US

Donald Trump had a very bad Monday at the US Supreme Court, losing an effort to block the case that holds significance for his future.  He was appealing against a tax ruling that forces the turnover of eight years of income tax information to a Grand Jury in New York City. This decision came in an unsigned opinion upholding a lower Court of Appeals ruling that said Trump must comply. The court had considered this matter since October 2020 but declined to offer its opinion while the election and it aftermath played out. Accounting firms will now provide this information to the Grand Jury. It will remain secret unless criminal charges are filed, in which case it can be made public.

Trump and his myriad companies have fought off releasing tax records for decades, arguing the results and documents would be misunderstood because of the arcane depreciation rules used by real estate investors to lower tax bills. This was the last possible way to deter the release and is viewed as a defeat, a potential roadblock in any comeback story Trump attempts. The former president also learned more about why efforts to challenge Pennsylvania voting in the 2020 election didn’t bring a decision that might have helped overturn the election of Joe Biden as 46th president of the United States. Post-election as Trump raged about a stolen result his lawyers asked the Supreme Court to rule that Pennsylvania election procedures were improperly changed.

Justice Clarence Thomas led the effort to help Trump challenge Pennsylvania election procedures. The case revolved around the state Supreme Court extending the deadline for mail in votes by three days.    Pennsylvania’s highest court ruled that the pandemic and postal delivery delays would disenfranchise many voters through no fault of their own. Specifically, the court found that the deadline violated the Pennsylvania Constitution, which requires that all elections be “free and equal.” Trump’s lawyers, looking for any possible way to keep the state’s 20 electoral votes going to Biden asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

Chief Justice John Roberts and the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg were responsible for Trump not getting what he wanted. Roberts would not join the four conservative justices who wanted to disregard the right of states to run their own elections.  Ginsburg had died and her replacement not yet been seated. So at 4-4 it was a draw.  Late arriving ballots were counted, but did not change the outcome of any race in Pennsylvania. So the Court ruled Monday that the issue is moot with no live controversy to settle. As a measure of their discomfort three justices—Thomas, Alit, and Gorsuch—dissented from the court’s decision to drop the Pennsylvania cases.

Justice Clarence Thomas’s dissent was in very strong language, doubting the legitimacy of the 2020 election by questioning the security of mail voting. “ The trend toward more permissive mail voting”, the justice warned, “vastly increases the risk of fraud.” In a transparently cynical move, the justice argued that laws curtailing mail voting might be justified without proof of fraud to prevent mere “appearance of corruption.” In reality voter fraud of this sort is remarkably rare, with few people ever caught and prosecuted.

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In the process, Thomas bolstered Trump’s paranoid attacks on mail voting, lending judicial credence to two foundational elements of the big lie: First, that vote-by-mail is inherently unsafe and insecure, and second, that fraudulent mail-voting schemes may be rampant yet “undetected,” These are Trump’s spurious claims that his voters are right to doubt the outcome of the presidential race. His, however, was a dissenting voice, and the verdict spells trouble for Trump as he prepares to restart public appearances and rallies.  


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