December 4, 2021

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‘Presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president’


Judge Chutkan’s ruling has some very blunt things to say about Trump’s claims and his position.

[Trump’s] position that he may override the express will of the executive branch appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power “exists in perpetuity.” But Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President. He retains the right to assert that his records are privileged, but the incumbent President “is not constitutionally obliged to honor” that assertion. 

All of this seems like a very cut-and-dry position from Judge Chutkin: Congress has an express right to request these documents, the request deals with a matter of national importance that could be the subject of future legislation, and Trump is most definitely not president, despite what many of this supporters may believe. Judge Chukin also states that she does not believe that Trump is likely to succeed based on claims that he will suffer irreparable harm, or that he somehow retains a “residual” executive power.

But Trump doesn’t have to win. As with the battle over subpoenas, what Trump is mainly trying to accomplish is simply stalling. How long it will take for the appeals court to hear the case isn’t clear. And if that court rules against Trump—which is almost certain—then comes the wait for the Supreme Court, which is unlikely to hurry in hearing this case. 

Should Trump manage to drag this out until January of 2023, he stands a good chance of laughing as the whole case dissolves under a Republican majority. Even if he is unable to delay for that long, every month extracted from the calendar is another month in which the select committee is unable to examine the documents or act on the information they contain.

And there’s another possibility. The conservative-heavy Supreme Court might grant a Republican wish by placing an extreme limit on Congressional power. For example, they might rule that Congress’ ability to subpoena information related to legislation only extends to current legislation already drafted and waiting for a vote. Such a ruling would effectively end Congress’ ability to conduct meaningful oversight of the executive—a power that’s already been badly eroded in the last five years through Trump’s constant refusals to cooperate, which forced Congress to go to court for every request.

Trump’s tax returns, requested in April of 2019, are still not in the hands of the Ways and Means Committee, 


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