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CNN

Donald Trump had a bad day in court on Tuesday — or, more specifically, in court.

The former president suffered a resounding defeat in the Supreme Court during his long campaign to hide his tax returns, which are now expected to land before a Democratic-led House committee. Republican-appointed appeals court judges, meanwhile, appeared cold in the face of his latest attempt to slow down the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. A New York judge has set an October 2023 trial date for the state’s $250 million case alleging fraud against Trump, three of his children and his organization, which will fall just before presidential primary season. republicans. And as the hangover lingers over his false 2020 fraud allegations, Trump ally Senator Lindsey Graham testified before a Georgia grand jury investigating the ex’s alleged election stealing bid -President.

Given Trump’s massive legal exposure and his habit of using the deliberative pace of the courts to defer responsibility, it’s not unusual for him to have hard times on the same day in concurrently pending cases. .

But Tuesday’s developments marked the first time the legal chaos and dangers surrounding it have been on full display since he declared his third run for the Republican presidential nomination last week. It’s the first test of whether the swirling courtroom peril he faces on multiple fronts will hurt his ability to mount a credible campaign and whether he will discourage GOP primary voters who may be considering an alternative nominee. .

Several developments on Tuesday — including in the documents case and the reality that Trump’s tax returns will soon be in the hands of Democrats weeks before Republicans take control of the House — suggest that two coherent legal strategies of Trump could start to unravel. The first is his assertion that he, as a former president, deserves different treatment under the law than other American citizens. The second is that his approach to delay, delay, delay can reach the limits of its usefulness. Yet the former president has long managed to keep scandals that could have brought down other politicians at bay. And he’s sure to leverage new business twists to bolster the persecution narrative that’s at the heart of his new campaign for the White House.

But incumbent Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, who is also considering a campaign for the Republican presidential primaries in 2024, told CNN on Tuesday that new evidence of unrest surrounding Trump could discourage GOP voters.

“It’s dizzying for the public to see this kind of chaos surrounding a presidential candidate,” Hutchinson told CNN’s Brianna Keilar. “To me, that’s very problematic and just reflects all the challenges that come with a Trump candidacy.”

Trump’s refusal to follow precedent in showing the public his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign was one of the first signs of his determination to break the norm. Thus, the Supreme Court’s decision not to prevent the Internal Revenue Service from disclosing its tax records to the House Ways and Means Committee represented a significant personal defeat, as well as a political defeat.

The Democratic leadership of the committee says it wants the statements to decide whether to change tax laws regarding sitting presidents. The possibility of hidden conflicts of interest or obligations owed by chairpersons or missed or underpayments on these statements could be problematic given a chief executive’s power to set tax policy. A lower court previously found the committee had a legitimate legislative purpose to see returns. But with only weeks before Republicans take control of the House, it’s unclear how long Democrats would have to consider returns or possibly make changes to the law.

Nor is it certain that the public will see the returns that Trump has long tried to protect. Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat from Texas who sits on the committee, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Tuesday that the documents were subject to privacy protections. But he also said the panel had the option of making the documents public and that “the time pressure here creates an additional reason to consider doing so.”

On the merits of the case, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said the Supreme Court upheld a vital standard. “Since Magna Carta, the principle of oversight has been upheld, and today is no different. This rises above politics, and the committee will now carry out the oversight we have sought for three years. and half. ”

But the committee’s top Republican, Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, warned that by stepping down, the court was setting a precedent that would mean no citizen could be safe from a majority political party.

“By effectively granting the majority party in either house of Congress nearly unlimited power to target and publicize the tax returns of political enemies – political figures, private citizens or even Supreme Court justices themselves – same – they are opening up a dangerous new political battleground where no citizen is safe,” Brady said in a statement.

An interesting wrinkle will be whether Trump’s loss in the fight against tax returns will influence how future Republican presidential candidates handle their financial records. By releasing them, they could not simply restore a modern tradition of transparency for presidents. They could potentially outflank Trump.

Trump’s other big disappointment came in the Mar-a-Lago papers case, with the key protections the ex-president won from a Florida lower court judge now appearing to be in jeopardy. The DOJ is investigating the ex-president for potential obstruction of justice, criminal handling of government records and violations of the Espionage Act, which prohibits the unauthorized storage of national defense information.

A three-judge panel at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals expressed skepticism over Trump’s arguments as to why he was entitled to a third party, known as a special master, to sift through about 22,000 pages of documents from his Florida resort. A key question at play here is whether Trump, as a former president, is entitled to the kind of judicial intervention that could slow countless routine legal cases involving other Americans if widely adopted.

In a comment widely noted by legal analysts, the head of the appeals court, Judge William Pryor, cast doubt on Trump’s arguments.

“We have to be concerned about the precedent we would set that would allow any offense target of a federal criminal investigation to go to a district court and have a district court hear this type of motion, exercises equitable jurisdiction (which allows a court to intervene) and interfere with the executive branch’s ongoing investigation,” Pryor told Trump attorney James Trusty.

“Other than it involving a former president, everything else about it … is indistinguishable,” Pryor told Trusty during arguments.

Another judge, Britt Grant, chastised Trusty for calling the FBI’s search of Trump’s property a “raid”, as the former president has done on several occasions. “Do you think a raid is the right term for the execution of a warrant?” Grant asked. Trusty apologized for using the “loaded term”.

Ryan Goodman, a former special counsel for the Department of Defense, told CNN’s Burnett that the court could decide to overturn the decision of Judge Aileen Cannon, who appointed the special master, which would be a blow to the ex-president.

“They would basically say, you never should have exercised your jurisdiction in the first place, Judge Cannon, you didn’t,” Goodman said.

Such a move could significantly speed up the documents’ filing after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to oversee it last week.

It could also offer a perspective of clarity to the public, who must now assess another unprecedented political scenario involving Trump. The former president’s multiple legal challenges slowed both cases, but Tuesday offered signs that each could be moving closer to resolution.

Trump’s tough day in court ends in double defeat

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