A divided Supreme Court on Tuesday wrestled with the legality of sweeping congressional subpoenas for President Trump’s personal financial records, raising concerns about potential for “presidential harassment” as Congress asserts power to obtain the information for help drafting ethics and anti-corruption laws.
For more than 90 minutes by teleconference, the justices heard arguments from Trump’s personal attorneys challenging subpoenas from three Democratic-led House committees for a broad range of financial records held by private banks and an accounting firm.
The court also debated a New York grand jury subpoena for similar records sought by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.
Chief Justice John Roberts worried openly that the House committees are claiming a “limitless” ability to request private documents of a sitting president.
Justice Stephen Breyer noted the subpoenas were seeking “a lot of information and some of it’s pretty vague,” adding that “there may be burdens” imposed on the president by forcing his banks and accounting firm to produce them.
“One [subpoena] could be manageable, but 100 [subpoenas] could be impossible,” said Justice Clarence Thomas of the potential aggregate impact of subpoenas on a president.
Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor defended the ability of lawmakers to issue subpoenas for broad legislative purposes. “One must investigate before drafting legislation,” Ginsburg said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.