Once Donald Trump was booted from office, we said that his remaining relevance would be as a defendant, not a politician, and that the real news about him would come from courtrooms. Sure enough, we’re now getting to the good part, with things going wrong for him in two different courts today.
We were promised that the appointment of Special Counsel Jack Smith would not cause any delays at all in the DOJ’s ongoing criminal case against Trump. Sure enough, the DOJ participated in an already-scheduled hearing today with the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, in an attempt at getting the remainder of Trump’s Special Master stunt struck down.
Suffice it to say that the hearing went hilariously poorly for Trump, with the judges making very clear that they saw no merit in Trump’s attorney’s arguments. This means the appeals court will almost certainly rule swiftly in the DOJ’s favor, ending the Special Master saga, and taking Trump’s pet judge Cannon out of the equation entirely.
The Supreme Court has already refused to get involved in this Special Master saga once, so even if Trump appeals, it’ll likely refuse to get involved again. This would clear the last major hurdle to indicting Trump for stealing classified documents. While there would still be evidence to process and steps to take in bringing an indictment, it would be entirely on the Special Counsel’s timetable, and no longer subject to any Trump-induced delays.
Speaking of the Supreme Court, it also dealt a blow to Trump today. A long while ago the Supreme Court ruled that New York prosecutors could have Trump’s tax returns, while simultaneously stating that the House would need to make a more convincing argument if it also wanted Trump’s tax returns. It turns out the House did come back with a better argument, and today the Supreme Court ruled that it too can have Trump’s tax returns.
The timing is unusual, so a couple of clarifying points. First, it’s Trump’s former accounting firm that has to turn over Trump’s tax returns, not Trump himself. This firm has immediately complied with similar previous rulings, and can be expected to do so again. So there is literally nothing Trump can do to block or delay this handing over in any way, shape, or form.
Second, Democrats still control the House and all of its committees through the end of the year. So yes, they will obtain Trump’s tax returns, and no, there is nothing an incoming House Republican majority will be able to do about it. The House Ways and Means Committee will have the next few weeks to do what it wants with Trump’s tax returns. If more time is needed, it can then hand off the investigation to the corresponding Senate committee, which will remain in Democratic Party hands for the next two years.
So while we’ll have to wait a hot minute for the court to actually deliver its ruling in favor of the DOJ before it becomes official, the reality is that Donald Trump suffered two ugly losses in court today. And not just any court. These two rulings came from the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, which thus far has had de facto final jurisdiction in the classified documents matter, and from the Supreme Court which always has final jurisdiction when it wants it. Today could not have gone more poorly for Donald Trump. Upcoming days will go even worse for him.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report