The Supreme Court on Monday refused to block a New York grand jury from obtaining the ruling of former President Donald Trump personal and corporate tax returns, a decisive defeat in its long legal battle to keep its tax records out of the hands of investigators.
The decision does not mean the returns will become public anytime soon, and they may never be made public. Under New York State law, documents handed over to a grand jury must be kept secret. But Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance can now demand Trump’s accountants turn over the files Trump has steadfastly refused to turn over to prosecutors or Congress.
“The work continues,” Vance said in response to the order.
Trump issued a lengthy statement denouncing the order as the continuation of a politically motivated witch hunt, and he vowed to “keep fighting.”
“The Supreme Court should never have let this ‘fishing expedition’ happen, but it did,” the statement said. “This is something that has never happened to a president before, everything is democratic in inspiration in a totally democratic place, the city and state of New York, completely controlled and dominated by one of my highly signaled enemies. , Governor Andrew Cuomo. “
Vance is asking for tax returns spanning eight years for a grand jury investigation into secret money payments and other financial transactions. The investigation began after it was revealed that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $ 130,000 to remain silent on her claim that she had an affair with Trump, an allegation that he denied.
Cohen also alleged in Congress that the Trump Organization sometimes lied about his financial situation to evade taxes or obtain favorable loan terms.
In July, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s claim that, as sitting president, he was immune from any part of the criminal justice system, including grand jury investigations. But the ruling indicated he could return to lower courts to make the same arguments available to anyone trying to defeat a subpoena.
A month later, a New York federal judge spoke out against Trump’s renewed efforts to dismiss the subpoena, describing the legal attack as just a repackaged version of his original immunity argument. The 2nd US Court of Appeals upheld the decision.
Trump’s legal team said the subpoena was very broad and was issued in bad faith to harass him. If all Vance was looking at were the payments made by Cohen, that wouldn’t explain why Vance simply copied a much larger subpoena issued by a congressional committee.
The first subpoena issued by a state for the files of a sitting president should have been properly crafted, his lawyers told the Supreme Court.
“Its almost unlimited scope – in time, scope and geographic scope – has all the characteristics of a fishing expedition,” its lawyers told the Supreme Court. “And the fact that the summons was issued to a third-party custodian while tensions were high between the Trump Organization and the public prosecutor, and for dubious reasons of effectiveness, only renders the allegation in bad faith. all the more plausible. “
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But in recent court records, Vance has hinted that the scope of his work may be broader than just secret cash payments.
“The investigation concerns a variety of business transactions and is based on information from public sources, confidential informants and the grand jury process,” and it could include falsification of business records, insurance fraud and tax evasion, Vance told the appeals court.
Now that the Supreme Court has cleared the way for Vance to execute the subpoena, Trump has exhausted his legal options to block it. Full tax return documents, or parts of them, would only be made public if Vance sued and sought to present them as evidence.
Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA said it was aware of the order and “remains committed to fulfilling all of our professional and legal obligations.”
The company said it cannot publicly discuss the services it provides to customers without their consent or as required by law.
Tom Winter contributed.