Trump v. Vance

Case Summary

The state of New York began a criminal investigation into the Trump organization after allegations arose that they had cheated on their taxes. The district attorney for Manhattan, Cyrus Vance, secured a grand jury subpoena for President Trump’s tax returns and business records in order to determine whether his company broke the law.

President Trump has argued he has absolute immunity. He believes he is immune from any lawsuit or investigation launched by a state because he is president, even if the state wants to investigate actions he took before taking office. He also argues that the states cannot subpoena third parties, like his accountants, because doing so will distract him from doing his job.

But presidential inaugurations are not monarchical coronations. President Trump is not a king. Like everyone else, he must bow before the law. Becoming president does not shield him from investigations into past events. The American people have entrusted him with immense power, not freed him from the responsibility to follow the law. That responsibility is shared by everyone, from the ordinary citizen to the president of the United States.


In a 7-2 decision, with Trump-appointees Gorsuch and Kavanaugh ruling against the president, the Supreme Court rejected the president’s argument that he is absolutely immune to investigation. The Court’s decision reads in part, “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. We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need.” The Court echoed many of the arguments in Protect Democracy’s amicus brief, and made absolutely clear that the president, like every American, is “subject to the law.” 

Case Information
  • Subpoena issued by New York District Attorney: August 29, 2019
  • Lawsuit filed by Trump: September 19, 2019
  • Appeals Court Decision: November 4, 2019
  • Supreme Court Decision: July 9, 2020