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Local News

Federal Appeals Panel Rules Manhattan DA Can See Trump's Tax Returns

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Federal Appeals Panel Rules Manhattan DA Can See Trump's Tax Returns

2020-10-07 22:56:59

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

It's a new month, and this means new drama regarding Donald Trump's tax returns. He's wrapped up in multiple court battles trying to force him to hand them over. He's been fighting the subpoena to release them for four years. On Wednesday, a federal appeals panel unanimously ruled that he must give them up to the Manhattan district attorney.

The three-judge panel in New York didn't agree with Trump's arguments that the subpoena was too broad and was political harassment from the Democratic district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr.

"Grand juries must necessarily paint with a broad brush," wrote the panel.

"None of the president's allegations, taken together or separately, are sufficient to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued out of malice or an intent to harass," the judges wrote.

It's expected that Trump will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. It's already been there once before and lost.

Vance has said his office will not enforce the subpoena for 12 days. In return, Trump's legal team must agree to act quickly.

Trump's attorney, Jay Sekulow, didn't comment on the ruling but indicated they would be asking the Supreme court for an order to delay enforcement until it decides whether it will hear the case.

Vance's office first subpoenaed eight years of the tax returns and other financial records from Trump's accounting firm, Mazars, USA, in August 2019. The request is part of an investigation looking into Trump and his business.

The scope of the investigation has not been revealed because of grand jury secrecy, but it's been suggested they are looking for tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records. It does stem in part from hush payments to two women claiming to have had affairs with him. The payments were allegedly made before he was elected. His former attorney, Michael Cohen, admitted to being involved in the scheme to pay the women and is doing jail time via home confinement.

Trump's legal team has argued that the scope of the subpoena is too wide, but the judges disagreed.

"The president's bare assertion that the scope of the grand jury's investigation is limited only to certain payments made by Michael Cohen in 2016 amounts to nothing more than implausible speculation," said the president's attorneys.

"Without the benefit of this linchpin assumption, all other allegations of overbreadth," they continued," fall short."

Trump's first argument against releasing the tax returns was that he is immune from criminal investigation as a sitting president. In July the Supreme Court justices rejected this claim but said he could challenge on other grounds.

Yet, after losing again in the lower court two months ago, he appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. The three judges on the panel were appointed by former President Bill Clinton and former President Barack Obama.

It's not clear whether the legal situation will be cleared up before Election Day. Vance's office accused Trump's legal team of using delay tactics so they could use the statute of limitations once it expires on possible crimes.

Sekulow contends, "Our strategy seeks due process." 

Last month The New York Times revealed its findings of an investigation into Trump's returns. It determined he paid just $750 the year he was elected and his first year in office. In 10 of the 15 years before that, he paid zero taxes.

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