The Supreme Court on Monday morning turned down requests from the House of Representatives to expedite the date on which the court’s ruling on access to the president’s financial records will officially go into effect. The orders came three days after Chief Justice John Roberts granted a similar request, to which the president had consented, from a New York district attorney. Only Justice Sonia Sotomayor noted that that she would have granted the House’s request.
On July 9, the justices issued their decision in Trump v. Mazars. By a vote of 7-2, the court sent a pair of cases challenging congressional subpoenas for the records back to the lower courts for another look, holding that subpoenas involving the president must be subject to a tougher standard than the courts had applied.
Under the Supreme Court’s rules, that decision would normally go into effect on Aug. 3, 25 days after the court’s opinion was released. But on July 13 the House committees asked the court to put the decisions into effect immediately. The committees emphasized that they have tried to move quickly throughout the process, but that their investigations “are ongoing, remain urgent, and have been impeded by the lack of finality in” the litigation. Because the current term of the House of Representatives expires on January 3, 2021, the House explained, the subpoenas will expire and the committees’ investigations will end at that point.
Trump pushed back, telling the justices that there was no good reason to expedite the release of the Mazars decision. Trump argued that the “House’s argument that its ability to consider legislation is being compromised” “rings hollow”: The committees, Trump suggested, still cannot identify any possible legislation for which they would need the president’s financial records. And noting that the president and Congress have traditionally tried to reach some sort of compromise on requests for documents, Trump stressed that the committees “should be productively using the window of time until the judgments issue to attempt to resolve (or at least narrow) this dispute — not seeking to rush back into court.”
The orders on Monday were a victory for the president, albeit a relatively minor one. The ruling in the Mazars case will go into effect eventually, and proceedings in the lower courts will resume. But with only a few months before the 2020 election, and the likelihood that whoever loses in the lower courts will appeal, any delay further increases the chances that the president’s documents will not be turned over to Congress before the election, if at all.
This post is also published on SCOTUSblog.