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Trump's Efforts to Shield Tax Records from Manhattan DA Fails in Another Court

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Trump's Efforts to Shield Tax Records from Manhattan DA Fails in Another Court

2020-08-21 10:56:09

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Donald Trump (Image source: Screenshot)

Once again, Donald Trump's efforts have failed in another court. He has shielded his tax returns for four years and through much of it has done so under a subpoena issued to his accounting firm demanding that it give up the returns. Court after court after court has turned down Trump's lawsuits to protect his financial records, but he continues to fight, trying desperately to hide whatever his tax returns will reveal.

This time it was U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero who threw out Trump's lawsuit trying to block the subpoena that his legal team complains is "overbroad" and issued "in bad faith." They compare it to "harassment." Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has argued that the grand-jury subpoena seeking eight years of Trump's financial records is legally valid and tied to a legitimate criminal investigation.

"The Court finds that the president has not sufficiently pled the subpoena is overbroad or was issued in bad faith in this basis," wrote the judge. This is after the Supreme Court last month gave an opinion that as a sitting president, he is not immune from state court actions or criminal investigations.

Vance is investigating the hush-money payments that were made before the 2016 election to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. He has denied their claims, but his former attorney, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison, partially because of his admission that he took part in the hush-money payments. Vance's office has also suggested it is looking at potential bank and insurance fraud relating to Trump's business interests.

After Marrero's decision was announced on Thursday, Trump's attorneys filed an emergency motion asking the judge for a delay in enforcing the subpoena so that Trump can appeal. They also asked a federal appeals court and the Supreme Court to intervene and stay the judge's ruling. This would prevent the subpoena from being enforced while Trump appeals.

When the president was asked about the ruling, he suggested the case would end up being heard again by the Supreme Court, saying the high court had said, "if it's a fishing expedition, you don't have to do it, and this is a fishing expedition."

"But more importantly," he continued, "this is a continuation of the witch hunt, the greatest witch hunt in history. There's never been anything like it."

Vance's office said in court that it believes Trump is trying to prevent the investigation from moving forward. Statutes of limitation are imminent and could hinder authorities from pursuing charges if it gets to that point.

Vance subpoenaed Mazars USA, Trump's accounting firm, last August. The order asked for Trump's tax returns as well as other documents, including "Statements of Financial Condition," that Trump would share with potential lenders to showcase his wealth.

A Washington Post analysis described that those statements sometimes exaggerated his assets or left off properties with large debts. However,  Mazars also attached a warning to the versions of the statements that the Post viewed, noting they weren't compiled using standard accounting practices.

Trump was not asked to supply anything in this subpoena, only Mazars, yet Trump has still spent a year trying to block it. While Trump's attorneys have famously said his immunity from prosecution was so broad as president, that he could shoot someone on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue and not be prosecuted, there appears to be no legal precedent for that claim.

"Local authorities couldn't investigate? They couldn't do anything about it?" an appellate judge asked a Trump attorney last year. "Nothing could be done? That is your position?"

"That is correct," said William Consovoy, one of Trump's attorneys. He stated that his client could only be investigated after he leaves office. The Supreme Court didn't see it that way. They did say, however, that Trump could still challenge the subpoena on the same grounds as any private citizen.

Trump said the subpoena is an effort to retaliate politically, as it asked for many of the same documents as a subpoena from a House panel investigating his compliance with tax laws. He claims the subpoena is asking for documents that don't have anything to do with the hush-money payments, which he believes is the focus of the district attorney's investigation.

Marrero rejected both arguments, saying the law presumes subpoenas are issued for a valid purpose unless it's proved otherwise, which Trump did not do. 

"Justice requires an end to this controversy," wrote the judge.

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