Trump, New York prosecutors square off in appeals court over tax returns

US President Donald Trump has been famously reluctant to share his tax returns. — Reuters pic
US President Donald Trump has been famously reluctant to share his tax returns. — Reuters pic

NEW YORK, Oct 23 — Lawyers for US President Donald Trump and New York state prosecutors trying to obtain Trump’s tax returns faced off in a federal appeals court today.

The case, which will be argued before the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, is one of several legal battles in which the Republican president is seeking to shield his personal finances from scrutiny.

In August, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, subpoenaed Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns from 2011 to 2018, and other records from the president’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA.

“We view the entire subpoena as an inappropriate fishing expedition not made in good faith,” William Consovoy, a lawyer for Trump, told a three-judge panel.

Trump’s lawyers have argued the president is immune from criminal investigation.

Circuit Judge Denny Chin asked Convoy if authorities would be powerless to do anything if Trump shot someone.

“That’s correct,” Consovoy replied, saying immunity would remain in place until the president left office.

The subpoena is part of a criminal probe into Trump and his family business. The scope of that probe is not publicly known.

Trump sued Vance’s office in Manhattan federal court to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, he cannot be subject to criminal investigation.

US District Judge Victor Marrero on Oct. 7 threw out Trump’s lawsuit, calling his claim that he was immune from investigation “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.”

Vance’s investigation comes amid an impeachment inquiry and investigations into Trump’s finances by Democrats in the US House of Representatives.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in Washington backed an effort by a House Oversight Committee to obtain Trump’s financial records from Mazars.

The 2nd Circuit has put Marrero’s Oct. 7 order on hold until it considers the case. Vance’s office has agreed not to enforce its subpoena for 10 days if the court rules in its favor, to give Trump time to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

The US Department of Justice has weighed in on the case, arguing that Vance must make a “heightened and particularized showing” that he needs the documents for his investigation.

Though the Department stopped short of saying Vance could not get the returns under any circumstances, it said it was “unlikely” he could demonstrate an immediate need for them because the US Constitution bars states from prosecuting a sitting president.

Two other House committees are seeking to obtain Trump’s financial records from Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp. The 2nd Circuit is currently considering a lawsuit by Trump to block them from getting those records, which do not include his tax returns.

The House impeachment inquiry focuses on the president’s request in a July phone call for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Democratic former vice president Joe Biden, a key Trump rival and a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. — Reuters

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