Updated: October 7, 2020 8:26:17 pm
Written by Benjamin Weiser and William K. Rashbaum
The Manhattan district attorney can enforce a subpoena seeking US President Donald Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, a federal appeals panel ruled on Wednesday, dealing another blow to the president’s yearlong battle to keep his financial records out of the hands of state prosecutors.
The ruling by three-judge panel in New York rejected the president’s argument that the subpoena should be blocked because it was too broad and amounted to political harassment from the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R Vance Jr, a Democrat.
Trump is expected to try to appeal the decision in the US Supreme Court. Vance has said that his office will not enforce the subpoena for 12 days in exchange for the president’s lawyers agreeing to move quickly.
The president and Vance have been locked in a bitterly contested legal dispute since August 2019, when Vance’s office first subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s tax returns and other financial records from his accounting firm, Mazars USA. The subpoena is part of an investigation into Trump and his business practices.
Vance has not revealed the scope of his office’s criminal inquiry, citing grand jury secrecy. But prosecutors have suggested in court papers that they are looking at a range of potential crimes, including tax and insurance fraud and falsification of business records. They have said that the tax records are central to the investigation.
The decision marks the fifth time courts have rebuffed the president’s attempts to block the subpoena.
Trump has tried several arguments, first asserting last year that as a sitting president, he was immune from criminal investigation.
That question, which had never been tested in the courts, eventually ended up in the Supreme Court. In July, the justices issued a landmark decision rejecting the president’s immunity claim but saying he could challenge the subpoena on other grounds, such as its scope and relevance.
Trump did just that. But after losing again in the lower court in August, the president appealed to the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals, which typically hears cases before three-judge panels.
Sitting on the panel were Judges Pierre N. Leval and Robert A. Katzmann, who were appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Judge Raymond J Lohier Jr, who was appointed by President Barack Obama.
Trump has declined to release his tax returns to the public, breaking with 40 years of White House tradition, and has vigorously fought attempts by Congress and state lawmakers to obtain his returns.
A recent New York Times investigation, based on more than two decades of confidential tax-return data for Trump and hundreds of his companies, showed that he paid no US income taxes in 11 of the 18 years that The Times examined. He paid only $750 in both 2016 and 2017.
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