Donald Trump used to promise his supporters that they would be winning so much, they would get sick and tired of winning. But the former US president is now on a seemingly endless losing streak.
He lost the presidential election, lost more than 60 legal challenges to the result, lost his bid to overturn the electoral college, lost control of the Senate and lost an impeachment trial 43-57, though he was spared conviction on a technicality. On Monday, Trump lost yet again – with potentially far-reaching consequences.
The supreme court rejected an attempt by his lawyers to block Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney (DA) in New York, from enforcing a subpoena to obtain eight years of his personal and corporate tax records.
The ruling did not mean the public will get to see Trump’s tax returns, which have gained near mythical status due to him being the first recent president to conceal them, any time soon.
But it did remove an important obstacle from Vance’s dogged investigation. The DA has said little about why he wants Trump’s records but, in a court filing last year, prosecutors said they were justified in seeking them because of public reports of “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” – Trump’s family business empire – thought to include bank, tax and insurance fraud.
Now that investigation is gathering momentum. Vance, who earlier this month hired a lawyer with extensive experience in white-collar and organised crime cases, will be able to find out whether the public reports were accurate by studying actual financial records, spreadsheets and email correspondence between the Trump Organization and accounting firm Mazars USA.
If wrongdoing is established, it raises the spectre of Trump some day in the future standing in the dock in a New York courtroom and even facing a potential prison term. No wonder he fought so hard to cling to power and the immunity from prosecution that it conferred.
The threat, however real or remote, casts a shadow over Trump’s chances of making a political comeback. On Sunday he is due to make his first speech since leaving office at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, reasserting his command of the Republican party and teasing a new run for president in 2024.
Read more of David Smith’s analysis here: Ruling on Trump tax records could be costliest defeat of his losing streak