Judge rebuffs Trump again on tax records; appeals underway
New York – A federal judge turned down President Donald Trump’s newest move Friday to keep New York City prosecutors from getting his tax records, but Trump’s lawyers have already asked higher courts to step in.
The developments came a day after U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero ruled – as he had before in a case that has been to the U.S. Supreme Court and back – that Manhattan’s top prosecutor could subpoena the records for a criminal investigation. Trump’s lawyers immediately appealed Thursday’s ruling.
They also asked Marrero to delay enforcement of the subpoena while the appeal plays out. Marrero said no to that Friday.
“The president has not demonstrated that he will suffer irreparable harm” if the records are turned over for a grand jury probe that would keep them secret, he wrote.
However, Trump’s lawyers noted in a court filing Thursday that they were making the same request of an appeals court and the Supreme Court.
“The president raises serious arguments,” Trump attorney William Consovoy wrote in an appeals court filing Friday, adding that it’s “implausible” that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. “needs these records so badly that there’s no time for appellate review.”
Vance’s office, which has agreed to hold off enforcing the subpoena for a week, declined to comment Friday.
Messages seeking comment were sent Friday to Trump’s lawyers.
Marrero has refused multiple times to block the subpoena. The U.S. Supreme Court last month upheld one of his rulings, finding that the presidency in itself doesn’t shield Trump from Vance’s investigation.
But the high court returned the case to Marrero’s courtroom to allow Trump’s lawyers to raise other concerns about the subpoena. They did, arguing that it was issued in bad faith, might have been politically motivated and amounted to harassment.
Vance’s attorneys countered that they were entitled to extensive records to aid a “complex financial investigation,” citing public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.”
Those arguments led to this week’s flurry of rulings and appeals.
Trump blasted the long-running quest for his financial records Thursday as a “continuation of the most disgusting witch hunt in the history of our country.”
Vance, a Democrat, began seeking the Republican president’s tax returns from his longtime accounting firm over a year ago, after Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress that the president had misled tax officials, insurers and business associates about the value of his assets.
The president has said he expects the case to end up back before the Supreme Court.
Even if the tax records ultimately are subpoenaed, they would not automatically be made public, as they are being sought as part of a confidential grand jury investigation.
Congress is also pursuing Trump’s financial records, though the Supreme Court last month kept a hold on the banking and other documents that Congress has been seeking and returned the case to a lower court.
Trump is the only modern president who has refused to release his tax returns. Before he was elected, he had promised to do so.