House Democrats argued on Thursday that the Supreme Court preserved the right of Congress to investigate a president even as a powerful chairman conceded that the landmark decision over President Donald Trump’s financial records had set back their efforts to probe Trump this election year, warning that the delay will prove “dangerous.”
In a high-profile ruling, which punted the matter to lower courts, the court blocked House Democrats from accessing the President’s financial records, but said that he is not immune from a subpoena for his financial documents from a New York prosecutor. The decision will keep Democrats’ investigation alive, but likely puts off any resolution until well after November.
“The Supreme Court, including the President’s appointees, have declared that he is not above the law,” House Speaker Pelosi said at her weekly press conference. Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer echoed that sentiment, saying in a statement: “The Supreme Court today upheld a fundamental tenet of our democracy that no one is above the law.”
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff acknowledged, however, that the court’s ruling has created a setback for House Democrats’ oversight efforts, saying that it “will serve to delay the Committee’s investigation — and, given the risk of foreign influence over this President, such delay is dangerous — but we remain confident that we will ultimately prevail.”
The cases were sent back to lower courts for further review, all but ensuring that Trump’s financial documents, which he has long sought to protect, will not be handed over before the November presidential election.
In a statement, Schiff said that the committee’s investigation is “vital to ensuring our national security. The specific documents the Committee has requested from Deutsche Bank are critical to its investigation of whether foreign actors, particularly Russia, have leverage over Trump, his family, and his businesses, and whether legislation is needed to guard against such dangerous conflicts of interest and foreign influence.”
During his own press conference on Thursday morning, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said that he hadn’t yet seen the Supreme Court’s ruling related to a New York prosecutor’s subpoena, but he defended the President and said that he views the subpoena as “more political than anything else.”
“I haven’t seen the ruling yet, but the Supreme Court made a decision. I’ve watched President Trump abide by all the requests that someone has for financial disclosure, which are much more thorough than any tax returns. It seems to me that the New York district attorney and others that have tried for it - it seems much more political than anything else,” the California Republican said.
Trump reacted angrily on Thursday, saying in one tweet, “The Supreme Court sends case back to Lower Court, arguments to continue. This is all a political prosecution. I won the Mueller Witch Hunt, and others, and now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York. Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!”
In contrast, Trump’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, celebrated the decisions.
“We are pleased that in the decisions issued today, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked both Congress and New York prosecutors from obtaining the President’s financial records. We will now proceed to raise additional constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts,” Sekulow said in a statement.
During her news conference, Pelosi said of the President’s reaction, “I hear he’s tweeting one thing, and other people are saying another, but whatever it is, it’s not good news for the President of the United States.”
Asked by CNN if she was disappointed that Democrats won’t see the documents before November, Pelosi said what was at stake was whether the President is above the law. If the court had ruled in that direction, she said, “that would have just been devastating, to tell you the honest truth.”
“The victory is for the Constitution of the United States. The process will take longer, but that’s not what was truly important here,” she said.
Pelosi said that “the Chief Justice specifically speaks to the fact that the President is not above the law.”
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the 7-2 opinion in the New York prosecutor case. “(W)e cannot conclude that absolute immunity is necessary or appropriate under Article II or the Supremacy Clause. Our dissenting colleagues agree,” Roberts wrote, noting that the court is unanimous that there is no absolute immunity.
Roberts also penned the 7-2 opinion in the House case. “While we certainly recognize Congress’s important interests in obtaining information through appropriate inquiries, those interests are not sufficiently powerful to justify access to the President’s personal papers when other sources could provide Congress the information it needs,” Roberts wrote.
“(B)urdens imposed by a congressional subpoena should be carefully scrutinized, for they stem from a rival political branch that has an ongoing relationship with the President and incentives to use subpoenas for institutional advantage,” he wrote.
This is story has been updated with additional developments.
CNN’s Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.