President Donald Trump’s accountant must turn over his tax records to a New York state prosecutor, an appeals court ruled Oct. 7 in a decision that likely sets up a second trip to the U.S. Supreme Court over the issue.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan in a 3–0 ruling rejected the argument by Trump’s lawyers that a subpoena issued by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. was overbroad and issued in bad faith.
“We find that the claim of overbreadth is not plausibly alleged for two interrelated reasons. First, the President’s bare assertion that the scope of the grand jury’s investigation is limited only to certain payments made by Michael Cohen in 2016 amounts to nothing more than implausible speculation,” the 35-page ruling states.
“Second, without the benefit of this linchpin assumption, all other allegations of overbreadth—based on the types of documents sought, the types of entities covered, and the time period covered by the subpoena, as well as the subpoena’s near identity to a prior Congressional subpoena—fall short of meeting the plausibility standard. Similarly, the President’s allegations of bad faith fail to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued out of malice or an intent to harass.”
The judges issuing the ruling were Carter-appointee Pierre Leval, Clinton-appointee Robert Katzmann, and Obama-appointee Raymond Lohier Jr.
All were appointed by Democratic presidents.
Vance has been investigating the Trump Organization and related entities and persons since 2018.
An initial subpoena for some records was issued on Aug. 1, 2019.
The subpoena sought documents from 2015 to 2018 relating to payments made to certain individuals and for the work of Michael Cohen, Trump’s one-time lawyer, for both Trump and the Trump Organization.
The organization produced some records but refused to supply the tax returns, arguing the subpoena didn’t encompass them. A second subpoena was issued on Aug. 29, 2019, to Mazars USA, Trump’s accounting firm.
Since then, the sides have fought in court as Trump tries to keep his tax information private.
Vance is seeking eight years of the Republican president’s personal and corporate tax records, but has disclosed little about what prompted him to request them. In one recent court filing, Vance’s lawyers have said he was justified in demanding them because of public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.”
A Justice Department spokesperson said the department was reviewing the ruling. Trump had indicated he would appeal to the Supreme Court if he lost.
The ruling preserves the stay of the ruling, provided Trump issues the appeal.
The stay was granted by the same court on Sept. 1.
The Supreme Court in July ruled 7–2 against the president, rejecting Trump’s arguments that he can’t even be investigated, let alone charged with any crime, while he is in office. But the court said Trump can challenge the subpoena on other grounds like anyone else who receives a subpoena.
The question of whether the taxes would be released is unlikely to be resolved before the November election, especially since the high court is down to eight justices after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Janita Kan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.