Judge Orders Manhattan DA, Trump Lawyers to Provide Next Steps in Financial Records Case

By Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan
Janita Kan is a reporter based in New York covering the Justice Department, courts, and First Amendment.
July 11, 2020Updated: July 12, 2020

A federal judge has ordered President Donald Trump’s lawyers and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office to inform him on whether further proceedings are needed after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the office’s subpoena of Trump’s tax records.

U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero on July 10 (pdf) asked the parties to provide him with “potential areas for further argument” if further proceedings are needed in the case, in light of the high court’s ruling that found that the president isn’t categorically immune from state grand jury subpoenas.

The case stems from a dispute over a subpoena issued to Mazars USA, Trump’s accounting firm, by District Attorney of New York County Cyrus Vance for tax records relating to Trump and his businesses in connection to a grand jury investigation. Vance is investigating hush money allegedly paid to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign: adult film performer Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied any wrongdoing in connection with the two women.

Trump has been fighting Vance’s subpoena since September 2019, arguing that the president enjoys absolute immunity from state criminal process under the Constitution. The district court denied Trump’s application for an injunction over the subpoena and dismissed the case in October. The 2nd Circuit also denied the president’s request for relief.

Trump’s lawyer argued in the Supreme Court that a sitting president has absolute immunity from state criminal subpoenas because compliance with them would impair the performance of his presidential duties. The federal government, which was also involved in the case, argued that a state grand jury subpoena for personal records of a sitting president should meet a higher standard of need.

The Supreme Court on July 9 pushed back on both arguments and said “no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.”

“We reaffirm that principle today and hold that the President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority in the 7–2 ruling (pdf).

Roberts noted that the Supreme Court and Court of Appeals’ decision only focused on the “absolute immunity and heightened need” arguments, and thus sent the case back to the lower courts so that the president may “raise further arguments as appropriate.”

The top court indicated that the decision does not leave the president without recourse, saying that Trump “can challenge the subpoena as an attempt to influence the performance of his official duties” or the executive could argue that “compliance with a particular subpoena would impede his constitutional duties.”

Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow indicated on July 9 that they will continue the case in the lower courts.

“We will now proceed to raise additional Constitutional and legal issues in the lower courts,” Sekulow said in a statement to media outlets.

The White House also released a statement following the ruling, also hinting that the president may raise additional arguments, including constitutional protections, against the subpoenas.

Marrero’s order also indicated that the parties are scheduled for a telephone conference for July 16 to discuss their positions in the case and any further briefing schedule, if needed.