Federal Appeals Court Rules Trump Must Turn Over Tax Returns To Manhattan District Attorney, President Appeals To Supreme Court
A three-judge federal appeals panel ruled Monday that President Donald Trump‘s accounting firm must turn over eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors.
The judges did not take a position on Trump’s claim that presidents are immune from criminal investigations, but instead said that because it was his accounting firm, Mazars USA, being subpoenaed, it does not matter if the president has immunity or not.
“This appeal does not require us to consider whether the president is immune from indictment and prosecution while in office, nor to consider whether the president may lawfully be ordered to produce documents for use in a state criminal proceeding,” the decision read.
Trump has pushed to keep his financial records a secret and is expected to appeal the court’s decision again, meaning the case is likely headed to the Supreme Court.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance began the legal battle in August, after subpoenaing Mazars USA for Trump’s tax returns as part of his investigation whether any New York state laws were broken by Trump’s hush-money payments during the 2016 election.
Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid adult-film actress Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about the president’s alleged affair with her. Trump and the Trump Organization reportedly reimbursed Cohen for the payments, something which would be reflected in the tax returns. Cohen is also connected to the hush-money payments made to Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who said she had a relationship with Trump.
Trump’s legal team sued both Vance and Mazars USA when the subpoena was first issued. They are arguing that any criminal investigation into a sitting president is unconstitutional, because presidents have such a powerful role in government.
At the oral arguments, Trump’s unconditional immunity defense was questioned when one of the judges, Denny Chin, asked about a previous statement that Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not suffer any political or legal consequences.
Chin asked one of Trump’s lawyers, William Consovoy about the hypothetical situation.
“Local authorities couldn’t investigate?” Chin asked. “Nothing could be done? That’s your position?”
“That is correct. That is correct,” Consovoy replied.
The appeals panel that heard the case also included Judge Robert Katzmann, the court’s chief judge and Judge Christopher Droney. All three were appointed by Democratic presidents.
Trump’s lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said that Trump will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
“The decision of the Second Circuit will be taken to the Supreme Court. The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our Republic. The constitutional issues are significant,” Sekulow said in a statement.