Hard as it might be to imagine, there was a time in the not-too-distant past when the mysterious contents of former President Donald Trump's tax returns embodied one of the biggest political scandals of the era. It might seem quant, now that we've crossed the political rubicon into the realm of seditious insurrection and emboldened right-wing violence, but the truth is that Trump's tax returns represent something of a Rosetta stone into the former president's convoluted — and almost certainly deeply corrupt — financial empire.
And now, thanks to a deceptively simple court ruling Monday, that Rosetta stone is finally about to land in the hands of New York City's top prosecutor, who has been seeking Trump's taxes for months as part of a broader investigation into Trump's potentially criminal dealings. All it took was a single sentence: "The application for a stay presented to Justice Breyer and referred to the Court is denied."
With that, the United States Supreme Court cleared the way for Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance to obtain eight years of Trump's tax information, denying a months-long effort by attorneys representing the former president to block Vance's subpoena for Trump's financial records. Shortly after the court's ruling, Vance tweeted a not-so-subtle reference to his legal victory:
However, because the material is part of a grand jury investigation, it's unclear when — if at all — the information gleaned by Vance will be made public. While the full scope of Vance's investigation remains secret, it likely deals with a wide range of financial mismanagement, tax and bank fraud, and other forms of potentially criminal record-tampering. Vance launched the investigation following the various revelations regarding hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels, who alleged an affair with Trump. Trump denied the tryst but confirmed the payments made to her.
While the justices did not expand their reasoning for the ruling against Trump beyond the single sentence announcement, the delay in issuing their decision — the initial case was filed before SCOTUS in mid-October – suggests the justices were waiting for the resolution of the 2020 presidential election, and Trump's return to civilian life, absent the legal protections of the Oval Office, before they announced a ruling.
According to Bloomberg, Trump's accounting firm will comply with the SCOTUS order without putting up a fight, and is ready to turn over the requested documentation to Vance's office immediately.