Thursday, December 5, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He threw himself under the bus in an attempt to keep anyone from seeing his financial records.

In an appeal filed today, Trump's personal lawyer William Consovoy asked the Supreme Court to decide whether Congress or law enforcement should be able to subpoena Trump's financial records. In his brief, Consovoy made the following claims:

It is the first time that Congress has subpoenaed personal records of a sitting president. It is the first time that Congress has issued a subpoena, under the guise of its legislative powers, to investigate the president for illegal conduct. And, it is the first time a court has upheld any congressional subpoena for any sitting president’s records of any kind.

Every single word of this is true. It's also legally compelling: the Supreme Court often hears cases when unique circumstances occur and there is no settled case law.

In other words, Trump's lawyer is conceding—correctly—that before Trump, no president had ever forced Congress to issue subpoenas like this, because no president's personal business records were ever suspected of implicating the president in crimes, and certainly not crimes of the magnitude that Trump is suspected of.

Obviously, this doesn't make Trump look good, which raises the question of why Trump allowed it. The answer seems to be that if the court agrees to hear the case, it will delay the enforcement of subpoenas for Trump's private books—and that nothing is more important than keeping the public from seeing those records.

Trump's tax and business records, which are the subject of the appeals the court is poised to consider, would allow investigation of a number of known or suspected crimes, including money laundering for Russian oligarchs, bank fraud, tax evasion, and the campaign finance crimes committed as part of Trump's attempts to pay hush money to his mistresses. They would also shed light on how much Trump is in debt to foreign entities, and which ones are paying him money now.

Why does this matter?

  • Nobody fights this hard to conceal evidence that they did nothing wrong.