Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany has said that the Supreme Court needs more conservative members, but suggested its decision yesterday regarding Donald Trump’s financial records was not in fact a ruling against the president.
Ms McEnany was asked at the daily briefing how Mr Trump felt given the Supreme Court's recent rulings on immigration, abortion, anti-LGBT discrimination, and adding a citizenship question to the census, went against the president's preferences. The Supreme Court also yesterday decided that a lower court can subpoena Donald Trump’s financial records, prompting a furious response from the president.
In response, the press secretary put the blame on the makeup of the court itself.
“What has been underscored to him after all of these rulings is that, you know, we need more conservative justices on the court. And that’s something he’s very strong about; it prompted him to say he’ll release a list of more conservative justices he wants on the court.”
When it was pointed out to her that conservative judges make up the majority of the court, with Mr Trump having already had two nominees confirmed, Ms McEnany retorted that the tax returns decision saw the judges “unanimously” agree that the case be sent back to lower court where the president can fight his corner.
Mr Trump is keen on boasting about how many federal judges he has appointed, a number that recently passed 200 (though he has many times given higher, inaccurate totals). He also appointed two of the Supreme Court’s current justices, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh – but both of them have voted against him not only in the tax returns case, but in other recent rulings that go against many conservatives’ preferences.
Ms McEnany took several questions from the press corps on the court’s latest ruling, which found that “no citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding”.
The president’s team had essentially argued that while in office, the president is immune from criminal investigation. This argument was rejected, including by both Mr Trump’s conservative appointees, Mr Gorsuch and Mr Kavanaugh.
Even staunch conservative Clarence Thomas, who voted against the majority, dismissed the idea of “absolute immunity” in his dissenting opinion.
Ms McEnany, however, repeatedly presented the court’s 7-2 finding against Mr Trump as “a win for the president” – a view that does not seem to be shared by the president himself.
After the decision was handed down, Mr Trump embarked on a furious Twitter rant, much of it in capital letters, complaining that the Supreme Court would never have given this ruling to another president and reiterating his claim that the Obama administration was guilty of “the biggest political scandal in US history”.
Mr Trump has been facing calls to release his tax returns since he began running for president in 2015, but has refused on the basis that his finances are “under audit”. This has never been confirmed by the IRS, and would not prevent him from releasing his tax return were it true.
Nonetheless, he continues to use the same excuse, as did Ms McEnany at yesterday’s briefing. “The media has been asking this question for four years,” she said, “and for four years, the President has said the same thing: his taxes are under audit, and when they’re no longer under audit, he will release them.”