DOJ Urges Supreme Court to Rule in Trump’s Favor in Tax Return Fight

November 25, 2019 Updated: November 25, 2019

The Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a brief in support of President Donald Trump, urging the Supreme Court to rule in Trump’s favor in the legal battle over the president’s tax returns.

Democrats across the nation have been seeking the release of Trump’s financial information, prompting a slew of legal battles.

One case stems from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat who filed a subpoena against Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA. The subpoena was nearly identical to two filed by Democrats in the House of Representatives.

After the latest ruling that ordered the firm to hand Trump’s tax returns over to Vance, Trump’s legal team filed an appeal with the Supreme Court.

DOJ Solicitor General Noel Francisco said in the 28-page Nov. 22 filing (pdf) that the nation’s highest court should block Vance from getting the documents.

“This case involves a state grand jury’s issuance of a subpoena to a third-party custodian for the personal records of the sitting President of the United States. The United States has a substantial interest in protecting the Office of the President and the powers and duties vested in that office by Article II of the Constitution,” he wrote.

“The United States also has a substantial interest in protecting the autonomy of the federal government from potential interference by the States.”

Francisco argued that courts haven’t even required Vance to show he needs the documents for his investigation.

Cyrus Vance Jr. the Manhattan district attorney, in a file photograph. (Benjamin Chasteen/Epoch Times)

“This case involves the first attempt in our Nation’s history by a local prosecutor to subpoena personal records of the sitting President of the United States. The court of appeals blessed that attempt, holding that a court should treat a subpoena for the President’s personal records no differently than any other subpoena. In the court’s view, the District Attorney was not even required to show that he had a particularized need for the evidence sought in the subpoena or that the evidence could not be obtained elsewhere,” he wrote.

“That decision is wrong. Article II of the Constitution protects the President’s discharge of his constitutional functions from obstruction or interference. And the Supremacy Clause protects the autonomy of the federal government from the States.

“State grand jury subpoenas seeking the President’s personal records raise serious constitutional concerns under both Article II and the Supremacy Clause. Leaving local prosecutors with unfettered authority to issue such subpoenas creates a serious risk that those prosecutors—prioritizing local concerns and disregarding significant federal interests—may subject the President to highly burdensome demands for information. Leaving local prosecutors with such unfettered authority also raises the risk that prosecutors could use subpoenas to harass the President as a result of opposition to his policies. If Article II and the Supremacy Clause allow such subpoenas at all, they do so only where the prosecutors make a heightened showing of need for the information sought,” he added.

Francisco says the Supreme Court should review the latest ruling.

“This Court has traditionally acted with great respect for the Office of President of the United States. This Court—not a lower federal court—should decide whether the type of intrusion on the Presidency at issue in this case is permissible,” he wrote.

If the Supreme Court decides against hearing the case, the ruling by the 2nd Circuit would stand and Mazars would release Trump’s personal and corporate records from 2011 through 2018.

In a separate case, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled earlier this month that House Democrats can obtain Trump’s financial records, in a case that may also be heard by the Supreme Court, which temporarily blocked Mazars from turning over the requested records.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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