Understanding the clever politics of Chief Justice Roberts on Trump's tax records - 2020-07-11
As a matter of judicial politics, Chief Justice John Roberts played the Presidential financial records cases masterfully, writing two 7-2 opinions that had the full buy-in of the court's liberal wing. He easily disposed of the President's preposterous claims as to the executive office's inviolability, sparing the court the indignity of endorsing Trump's shit show. Yet, by remanding with further instructions to the lower courts, he provided the President with the likely means to run out the clock between now and November. Roberts is having a very Marbury v Madison term, issuing opinions that simultaneously giveth and taketh away, while reasserting the court's place in the Constitutional scheme.
Given his genuine concern over the court's perceived legitimacy as the non-political branch of government, Roberts was not going to be remembered as the Justice who simply handed over Trump's tax returns to Congress (the Mazars case). Congress will eventually get its hands on Trump's financial records but Roberts gave himself a way to quietly leave the party before the serious fighting broke out.
Roberts' solution in Mazars was to create a four-part test that must be satisfied before Congress can subpoena a President (any Congress and any President). For centuries US Presidents have wrestled with Congress over the scope of the latter's oversight role but had never simply stonewalled as Trump has, they've always reached an accommodation.