Note: this op-ed was published in the Los Angeles Times, and was co-authored by Checks & Balances member Donald Ayer.
President Trump is playing a shell game with the American people and rejecting the founding principle of this nation: We have a president, not a king.
In a case to be argued before the Supreme Court this month, Trump v. Vance, Trump’s lawyers maintain that the president is absolutely immune from criminal proceedings. In their view, not only can the president not be indicted or prosecuted, he cannot even be investigated by law enforcement if he were to shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue, as one of Trump’s lawyers told the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.
This breathtaking claim is anathema to the fundamental principle that the law applies equally to everyone, from an ordinary citizen to the president himself. That’s why we have joined 34 other former Republican officials, members of Congress and legal experts in signing a friend-of-the-court brief to be filed on Monday in support of New York prosecutors seeking to subpoena Trump’s financial records.
Consider the facts of this case to understand how extreme the president’s position is. After reports that Trump paid hush money to two women before the 2016 election, Manhattan Dist. Atty. Cyrus Vance initiated a New York state investigation. He issued grand jury subpoenas seeking evidence from several sources, including a subpoena to Trump’s accountant seeking financial records. Trump has sought to stop his accountant from complying even though 1) the inquiry is focused on actions that occurred before he became president, 2) the investigation involves possible criminal wrongdoing by associates of the president and 3) Trump himself does not need to lift a finger to comply with the subpoena.