Trump Files Emergency Request to Block Manhattan DA Subpoena for Tax Returns

August 21, 2020 Updated: August 22, 2020

Update: The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals denied President Donald Trump’s request to delay efforts by New York prosecutors to obtain Trump’s financial records. The court said it would hold a hearing on the request for a delay, but not until Sept. 1

Orignal article below:

President Donald Trump is seeking to urgently prevent the Manhattan district attorney from gaining access to his tax returns, by asking a federal appeals court to temporarily block a lower court’s decision to dismiss the case.

Trump’s legal team on Friday filed an emergency motion to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals hours after a district court judge denied their request to put the judge’s ruling on hold while the appeal plays out in the courts.

Earlier on Friday, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero rejected Trump’s request to put Marrero’s decision on hold pending appeal. The day before, Marrero dismissed Trump’s latest bid to stop New York Country District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.’s subpoena for eight years of his tax returns and other financial documents from the president’s accountant.

Marrero characterized Trump’s newest challenge as a roundabout way for the president to invoke immunity from judicial processes. He said that the president’s move embodies “a novel application of presidential immunity to protect the executive branch from judicial process.”

“At its core, it amounts to absolute immunity through a back door, an entry point through which not only a President but also potentially other persons and entities, public and private, could effectively gain cover from judicial process,” the judge wrote.

In rejecting the request for a hold, Marrero said (pdf) the president “has not demonstrated that he will suffer irreparable harm.”

Trump’s legal team argued in their request to the 2nd Circuit Court that the enforcement of Vance’s subpoena is in fact “quintessential irreparable harm,” if the court does not grant their request.

“The President should be afforded appellate review of the district court’s 103-page opinion dismissing his complaint outright,” they wrote.

The lawyers also argued that Marrero’s characterization of Trump’s claims in his latest challenge was “unfair.”

“The district court may disagree with the Supreme Court’s decision to remand this case for further proceedings. But that dissatisfaction shouldn’t have been held against the President,” they wrote.

The president has been fighting Vance’s subpoena since 2019. The case went to the Supreme Court after lower courts denied Trump’s request for relief from the subpoena.

Trump’s lawyer argued before 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 in July rejected (pdf) both arguments and stated that “no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.” However, the top court left the door open for the president to seek recourse, suggesting that Trump could still challenge the subpoena on other grounds.

Trump’s legal team filed a second challenge against the subpoena in late July. They argued that the subpoena was overbroad and hence issued in bad faith.

The president’s lawyers also told the court that his new claims are “serious” and that the “balance of harms tips heavily in his favor.”

“The idea that the District Attorney needs these records so badly that there’s no time for appellate review—after he voluntarily stayed enforcement for nearly a year—is implausible,” they said.

They have also asked the 2nd Circuit Court to rule before Aug. 28 as the parties had agreed to hold the district court’s ruling for seven days from the date of Marrero’s ruling.

Vance is subpoenaing for Trump’s financial documents as part of a criminal grand jury probe.

It was widely believed that Vance was investigating hush money paid to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign: adult film performer Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. But recent court filings by Vance’s team suggest that the scope of the Manhattan DA’s probe might be broader than what was previously known.

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