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SCOTUS Rejects Absolute Immunity Arguments in Trump v. Vance and Mazars/Deutsche Bank

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On July 9, 2020, the United States Supreme Court issued rulings in Trump v. Vance and Trump v. Mazars/Trump v. Deutsche Bank. The court’s decisions are a repudiation of President Trump’s reckless disregard for the Constitution and the rule of law. Saying the President is “subject to the law,” the Court in Vance affirmed that the president—like every other American—can be required to provide evidence as part of a legitimate criminal investigation or in response to a congressional subpoena. And in Mazars, the Court expressly rejected the president’s most extreme arguments for immunity from congressional subpoena. Taken together, today’s rulings properly rejected President Trump’s arguments that he stand above the law.

“It’s appropriate that shortly after the holiday that marks America’s independence from a king, the Supreme Court has rejected President Trump’s efforts to bring back the monarchy,” said Jamila Benkato, Counsel at Protect Democracy. “This Administration has argued time and again that the President is accountable to no one—that he can shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and get away with it. While we expect those arguments to continue, today’s decisions reaffirm the bedrock principle upon which this country was founded—that nobody, not even the president, is above the law.”

Protect Democracy filed an amicus brief in Vance on behalf of 37 former Republican members of Congress, former officials in Republican administrations, and legal experts, explaining that, despite the president’s argument to the contrary, the historical record unequivocally demonstrates that the office of the president is subject to the rule of law and that the president, like all Americans, is not above the law. The brief includes examples of numerous past presidents who answered interrogatories, sat for depositions, and gave evidence in criminal and civil cases. The Court’s opinion recounts many of these same episodes from American history to emphasize  the principle that the President is not exempt from the law that applies to other Americans.

Today’s decision agrees with much of the reasoning from Protect Democracy’s brief in Vance, concluding: “Two hundred years ago, a great jurist of our Court established that no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence whencalled upon in a criminal proceeding. We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.”