Supreme Court rules today: Trump is not above the law!
The U.S. Supreme Court building. Manuel Balce Ceneta | AP

President Trump took to Twitter in a rant today after the Supreme Court, in two 7-2 decisions. said the president is not entitled to immunity from congressional and grand jury subpoenas for his tax and financial information.

In his rant, Trump called the rulings rejecting his claims that he is essentially above the law “unfair.”

In an on-again, off-again tweet storm, Trump attacked Democrats and former President Barack Obama, arguing he is being unfairly targeted while others don’t face scrutiny.

“This is all a political prosecution” Trump tweeted. “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!”

Particularly vexing for the president was that the majority in the two decisions that said Trump is not immune to demands that he produce his financial information was joined by Trump-appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh. Trump’s lawyers had tried to get the Supreme Court to back their attempt to halt efforts by the Manhattan District Attorney to obtain his taxes as part of an investigation into hush money payments to two women. The court also ruled that it was leaving open the House Democrats’ attempt to obtain his financial records from the Trump Organization’s accounting firm and two banks.

Riled up over the rulings

The president is riled up over these rulings because even though he gets a reprieve for now by the decision to kick things back to lower courts he has to be worried that if he loses the election he could be in deep trouble in court, especially since it is quite likely that he lied at on his tax filings.

Returning the cases to the lower courts does not mean, however, that public release of Trump’s tax information is imminent, and it is almost certain that it will not come out before Election Day.

Trump tweeted that Obama and Joe Biden are not under investigation while he has been under investigation for years.

In the majority ruling on Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s efforts to obtain the documents, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that in the U.S. judicial system, “the public has a right to every man’s evidence.”

“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 when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” he said. “We reaffirm that principle today.”

Vance said the ruling is “a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no onenot even a presidentis above the law.”

“Our investigation, which was delayed for almost a year by this lawsuit, will resume,” he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the rulings were not good news for the president.

“The Court has reaffirmed the Congress’s authority to conduct oversight on behalf of the American people,” she said.

Earlier in the week, the Supreme Court that said today the president is not above the law gave that same president and the religious right some significant victories, by dealing blows to the rights of women and workers.

A serious loss

In a serious loss for women and their families, the majority of the Court said earlier this week that employers can exempt themselves for religious or moral reasons from contraceptive coverage for women under the Affordable Care Act. Both votes were 7-2. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented from those two rulings.

The loss for women lets Trump’s government, which hates the ACA, broadly interpret that religious and moral exemption from the law’s otherwise required contraceptive coverage. Pennsylvania and New Jersey challenged the broad exemption, on the grounds Trump agencies didn’t follow legal procedures before imposing it. They lost.

In the loss for workers, the court majority said religious schools could use the “ministerial exception” from the Constitution’s ban on discriminating by religion to fire anyone. That includes someone who’s not a “minister” by title as long as she teaches religious instruction. The religious right pushed hard for widening that “ministerial” loophole, giving it more power to hire and fire teachers.

In the contraception case, the federal government, Justice Thomas wrote, “has sweeping authority” through agency rules “to define the preventive care health plans must cover. That same authority empowers it to identify and create exemptions.” Contraceptive coverage, he said, can be an exemption.

Right-wingers and religious zealots cheered. The Trump regime sided with backers of discrimination in hiring and firing, and its own agencies pushed the contraceptive coverage denial. Women’s rights groups, the National Abortion Rights Action League, and the ACLU were dismayed.

“All women deserve unrestricted access to abortion, birth control, and comprehensive reproductive health care. Period,” the National Partnership for Women and Families said.

Gave Trump the green light

The justices gave Trump “the green light to attack birth control coverage, making it clearer than ever why we need to flip the U.S. Senate to a pro-choice majority” in November’s election, NARAL texted. “As long as there is an anti-choice majority, your rights will be threatened.”

“Hundreds of thousands of people will be at risk of losing coverage for the contraceptive care that is critical to their health, equality, and economic security, all while we continue to grapple with a global pandemic and the resulting financial crisis,” ACLU e-mailed.

“Employers do not have to report whether they will drop contraception coverage on religious or moral groundswhich means many people will not even know if this decision impacts them until they try to refill their prescriptions.”

“Imagine trying to buy something as basic as birth control, which you have relied on for years, only to suddenly be notified it is not covered by your insuranceand is now too expensive for you. This isn’t just damaging to people’s health, it is detrimental to the fight for equality. This will most impact individuals with the fewest resources and people of color.”

“When Democrats passed the ACA in 2010, we made a point of requiring contraceptive coverage because we believe reproductive health care decisions ought to be made by women and their doctors, not their employers. This is a principle we will keep defending as we continue our work to strengthen and expand health care coverage…and fighting for women’s full access to quality, affordable health care,” House Majority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement.

Unions had no immediate comment on the reproductive rights case, and an e-mail to the Coalition of Labor Union Women has yet to receive a reply. But the Service Employees noted they, the Teachers (AFT) and AFSCME recently filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Court of Appeals in St. Louis, challenging Missouri’s extreme restrictions on reproductive rights—including clauses letting firms deny contraceptive coverage.

“SEIU has long partnered with groups such as Planned Parenthood to fight back against these types of restrictive measures,” the union said then. “These laws would have a disproportionately high impact on women from low-income families and women of color, eliminating their rights to reproductive freedom and healthcare. We also know that the extremist groups threatening women’s reproductive health are the same ones who fight to rig the system against unions and working people.”

The “ministerial exception” case followed a similar pattern, except Justice Alito, not Thomas, spoke for the court’s majority.

Catholic schools in L.A. fired teachers Agnes Morrisey-Berru and the late Kristen Biel, for reasons, the schools said, other than faith. When they sued to get their jobs back, the schools invoked the “ministerial exception,” since both had taught catechism and other church rituals and tenets. The teachers won in lower courts. The justices sided with the schools, letting the schools use the exception to discriminate.

The First Amendment’s “Religion clauses protect the right of churches and other re­ligious institutions to decide matters ‘of faith and doc­trine’ without government intrusion,” Alito wrote. That includes hiring and firing, he declared.

It won’t stop there

Sotomayor and Ginsburg warned it won’t stop there. They retorted the Supreme Court created the “ministerial exception” only eight years ago, and that churches and other religious institutions must obey other general worker laws, such as minimum wage and child labor laws. They predicted the majority’s ruling would create dire consequences for workers.

“Thousands of Catholic teachers may lose employment-law protections because of today’s out­come. Some sources tally over 100,000 secular teachers whose rights are at risk,” they warned.

“And that says nothing of the rights of countless coaches, camp counselors, nurses, social-service workers, in-house lawyers, media-relations personnel, and many others who work for religious institutions,” the two added. “All these em­ployees could be subject to discrimination for reasons com­pletely irrelevant to their employers’ religious tenets.”

And the “ministerial” discrimination could extend to hiring, too. The majority’s “reasoning risks rendering almost every Catholic parishioner and parent in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles a Catholic minister…unprotected from discrimination in the hiring process. That cannot be right.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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