The court, in an unsigned order, denied the former President’s request for the justices to halt a lower court ruling instructing him to turn over materials to Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney. Trump's tax returns, although not currently visible to the public, will be subject to scrutiny in the office's investigations of whether Trump committed bank fraud while he helmed the Trump Organization.
The Supreme Court last year ruled that Trump was not immune from a subpoena of his tax returns from New York prosecutors. However, it blocked House Democrats investigating Trump from viewing the documents. The Supreme Court yet again sent the case back to the lower courts for further review.
In the court's majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that even the dissenting justices agreed that Trump was not immune from a subpoena in New York.
"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," Roberts wrote.
At the investigation's heart is the allegation that Trump and lawyer Michael Cohen paid off two women to keep quiet about affairs they had with Trump. The documents, which include other material aside from Trump's tax returns, span from 2011 to 2019.
The court's action is the apparent culmination of a lengthy legal battle that had already reached the high court once before.
Trump's tax records are not supposed to become public as part of the prosecutor's criminal investigation, but the high court's action is a blow to Trump because he has for so long fought on so many fronts to keep his tax records shielded from view. The ongoing investigation the records are part of could also become an issue for Trump in his life after the presidency. Trump has called it "a fishing expedition" and "a continuation of the witch hunt - the greatest witch hunt in history."
The Supreme Court waited months to act in the case. The last of the written briefs in the case was filed Oct. 19. But a court that includes three Trump appointees waited through the election, Trump's challenge to his defeat and a month after Trump left office before issuing its order.
The court offered no explanation for the delay, and the legal issue before the justices did not involve whether Trump was due any special deference on account of him being president.
The court's order is a win for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who has been seeking Trump's tax records since 2019 as part of an investigation.
Vance has disclosed little about what prompted him to request the records. In one court filing last year, however, prosecutors said they were justified in demanding the records because of public reports of "possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization."