New York AG Says Supreme Court Ruling on Trump Tax Returns Has No Impact on Probe

February 23, 2021 Updated: February 23, 2021

New York Attorney General Letitia James said Monday that the Supreme Court ruling on former President Donald Trump’s tax returns will have no effect on her civil probe into Trump’s taxes.

James made the remarks to Andrew Sorkin, host of The New York Times’ DealBook D.C. Policy Project, in response to a question about whether Monday’s Supreme Court decision not to stop a Manhattan prosecutor from obtaining Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a separate criminal probe had changed the dynamic of her investigation.

That ruling “doesn’t change the tenor of our lawsuit,” James said, adding, “We will continue our investigation and upon completion we will announce our findings.”

James, a Democrat, is conducting a civil probe into whether the Trump Organization improperly manipulated the value of Trump’s assets on annual financial statements in order to secure loans and obtain tax benefits.

ny to sue trump administration
New York Attorney General Letitia James speaks at a press conference in New York City in a file photograph. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

The Trump Organization has described the probe as politically-motivated and earlier accused James of “continued harassment.”

“While we have tried to cooperate in good faith with the investigation at every turn, the NYAG’s continued harassment of the company as we approach the election (and filing of this motion on the first day of the Republican National Convention) once again confirms that this investigation is all about politics,” a Trump Organization lawyer told news outlets last year.

James said in August 2020 that she had been probing the allegations since 2019 after Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress. The investigation remained confidential for months.

She told Sorkin in Monday’s interview that the Supreme Court ruling obligating the release of Trump’s tax returns to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, would not mean that her office would gain access to those documents.

“There’s a wall of separation between the two offices,” she said, adding that her office has obtained some information on its own.

“We are reviewing tax information from the Trump Organization,” James said.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision, the New York grand jury will be able to obtain the records and look at them in secret, meaning that the records will not become public any time soon, although the possibility of leaks to news media outlets can’t be ruled out.

Last year, Trump’s lawyers said the attempt to review his taxes was done in bad faith and was excessive. His attorneys had also told the Supreme Court that Trump would suffer “irreparable harm” if the materials were turned over to the grand jury.

Trump on Monday said New York officials investigating him are involved in “the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country.”

“For more than two years, New York City has been looking at almost every transaction I’ve ever done, including seeking tax returns which were done by among the biggest and most prestigious law and accounting firms in the U.S. The Tea Party was treated far better by the IRS than Donald Trump,” Trump said in a statement.

“The Supreme Court never should have let this ‘fishing expedition’ happen, but they did,” he added.

Citing grand jury secrecy rules, Vance’s office hasn’t publicly said what it is investigating, but some details have emerged in court filings that suggest prosecutors are seeking evidence of possible falsification of records as well as insurance and tax fraud.

Vance’s office sent subpoenas to local governments in the New York City suburbs last month, seeking information about a Westchester estate Trump owns there, and 158 acres of land he donated to a conservation land trust in order to qualify for an income tax deduction.

With Trump now out of office, he no longer enjoys its protective cloak of immunity. A criminal conviction would be an unprecedented event in American history, with no ex-president ever even charged with a crime, much less convicted for one.

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