Trump Raises New Objections to Subpoena Seeking His Tax Returns

By William K. Rashbaum and 


July 15, 2020

President Trump and the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., have been locked in a battle over the tax records for almost a year.Credit...


Days after the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a defeat to President Trump, clearing the way for the Manhattan district attorney to seek his tax returns, his lawyers on Wednesday renewed their efforts to block or at least narrow access to the records.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote to the federal judge in Manhattan who originally presided over the case, saying they planned to argue that the district attorney’s subpoena seeking eight years of his corporate and personal tax returns was too broad and politically motivated.

The filing came less than a week after the Supreme Court struck down Mr. Trump’s previous argument — that the subpoena was invalid because a sitting president could not be criminally investigated.

In the new filing, Mr. Trump’s lawyers noted that the high court’s decision allowed him to raise other objections: that the subpoena was “motivated by a desire to harass or is conducted in bad faith,” and that it would impede his constitutional duties.

The president and the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, have been locked in a battle over the records for almost a year.

The district attorney issued the subpoena to the president’s accounting firm last August, seeking records dating to 2011 as part of an investigation into hush-money payments made to an adult film actress who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The president has denied the affair.

Mr. Trump fought the request for his financial records, arguing that presidents were immune from state criminal investigations.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court rejected his position by a 7-to-2 vote, but it left open the possibility that he could raise new arguments against Mr. Vance’s subpoena in the lower court.

No matter who ultimately wins the battle, it is unlikely that Mr. Trump’s financial records will become public any time soon. If they are turned over to prosecutors, they will remain shielded under grand jury secrecy and may emerge only if charges are brought and they are introduced as evidence at a trial.

The flurry of legal activity over how quickly Mr. Vance would be able to access some or all of the records — and to what extent Mr. Trump could block them — came after the lower-court judge, Victor Marrero, asked both sides to inform him of whether further action was needed in light of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision.

In a response on Wednesday, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said they planned to argue that the subpoena should be blocked, while Mr. Vance’s office told the judge that the issues had largely been decided. The two sides wrote to the judge in a joint letter outlining their positions.

Judge Marrero is set to hold a hearing on Thursday to discuss a schedule for further arguments. He is not expected to immediately rule on the merits of either side’s position on the subpoena itself.

Last October, Judge Marrero, in a 75-page opinion, rejected Mr. Trump’s initial argument that he was immune from all investigation, calling it “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.”

After a federal appeals court panel unanimously upheld the judge’s decision, the president sought review in the Supreme Court.

After the Supreme Court decision was announced last week, Mr. Vance, in a statement, called the ruling “a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice.” He said his office’s investigation, which had been delayed for almost a year by the president’s legal challenge, would resume.

The president’s lawyers did not offer much detail about the grounds for their new objections in the filing on Wednesday, but said they were likely to pursue several arguments about the subpoena’s scope and purpose.

Mr. Vance’s office made clear that it intended to push back against Mr. Trump’s position. Citing Judge Marrero’s opinion last October, it argued that he had found “no demonstrated bad faith” or harassment in the decision to issue the grand jury subpoena.

Mr. Vance’s prosecutors also said Judge Marrero had rejected the president’s claim that there was “any evidence of a ‘secondary motive’ that goes beyond good-faith enforcement of the criminal laws.”

The dispute emerged out of the case of Michael D. Cohen, the president’s onetime lawyer, who paid the adult film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to buy her silence during the 2016 presidential campaign. He later pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations for his role in that deal and another hush-money payment.

Mr. Cohen, who is serving a three-year sentence at a federal prison in Otisville, N.Y., implicated the president, saying in court that he had acted on Mr. Trump’s orders.

After federal prosecutors concluded their investigation last year, Mr. Vance’s office began examining whether New York State laws had been broken when Mr. Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, reimbursed Mr. Cohen. The subpoena was issued as part of that inquiry.

On Wednesday, Mr. Vance’s office asked the judge to order Mr. Trump to file any additional arguments quickly in light of the risk of losing evidence “as a result of fading memories or lost documents,” or the possibility that statutes of limitations would expire.

“If the president has anything left to say,” Mr. Vance’s office wrote, “the ball is now in his court.”

Do you like this post?

Be the first to comment