Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns to D.A., Judge Rules

The Four Percent


A federal judge on Thursday rejected President Trump’s latest effort to block the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his tax returns, roundly dismissing Mr. Trump’s arguments that the prosecutor’s grand jury subpoena was “wildly overbroad” and issued in bad faith.

The ruling by Judge Victor Marrero of Federal District Court in Manhattan marked another setback for the president in his yearlong legal fight to block the subpoena. The conflict has already reached the Supreme Court once and could end up there again as Mr. Trump’s lawyers quickly filed papers saying he would appeal.

The district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat, has been seeking eight years of Mr. Trump’s personal and business returns and other financial records as part of an investigation into the president’s business practices.

The Supreme Court, in a landmark decision last month, denied Mr. Trump’s initial argument that a sitting president had immunity from criminal investigation. But that ruling opened the door for the president to return to the lower court in Manhattan and raise other objections to the subpoena.

Mr. Trump renewed his fight with an argument that the subpoena was seeking information far beyond the jurisdiction of a local district attorney. He stated it was issued in a “fit of pique,” copying a subpoena issued by congressional Democrats who had been frustrated in their efforts to obtain the president’s financial information.

But in his decision, Judge Marrero dismissed the president’s new argument, saying that the judicial process did not “automatically transform into an incidence of incapacitating harassment and ill will merely because the proceedings potentially may implicate the president.”

The judge was appointed to the federal bench in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.

Judge Marrero also agreed with prosecutors that throwing out the subpoena would effectively shield the president and his associates from an investigation, potentially allowing the statute of limitations to expire on any potential crimes. That would give the president the protection he had failed to win from the Supreme Court, the judge ruled.

“At its core, it amounts to absolute immunity through a back door,” Judge Marrero wrote.

A spokesman for Mr. Vance declined to comment.

Soon after the decision was released, William S. Consovoy, a lawyer for the president, filed an emergency motion asking the judge to bar Mazars USA, the president’s accounting firm, from turning over Mr. Trump’s tax returns and other financial records to the prosecutors until Mr. Trump can appeal.

It has been known that Mr. Vance was investigating whether any New York State laws were broken when hush-money payments were made in the run-up to the 2016 president election to two women who said that they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

But Mr. Vance’s office suggested recently in a court filing that its inquiry was broader, also focusing on potential bank and insurance fraud.

The prosecutors, defending their subpoena for Mr. Trump’s records, cited undisputed “public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.” Mr. Vance’s office made it clear in court recently that it viewed the tax returns as central evidence in its investigation.

The New York Times also has reported that Mr. Vance’s office issued a separate subpoena last year to the president’s longtime lender, Deutsche Bank, seeking records that Mr. Trump and his company provided to the bank when he sought loans. The bank complied with the request, The Times reported, although there was no indication the bank’s records included Mr. Trump’s tax returns.

Mr. Vance’s subpoena for Mr. Trump’s tax returns was sent in August 2019 to Mazars USA.

The following month, Mr. Trump filed suit in Federal District Court in Manhattan, where he made his initial argument about immunity.

Judge Marrero, in a 75-page decision last October, rejected that position, calling the argument that Mr. Trump was immune from criminal investigation “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.”

In that ruling, Judge Marrero also said that barring more evidence from the president, he did not believe the district attorney was acting in bad faith.


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