Appeals Court Grants Trump’s Request to Delay Subpoena Over His Tax Returns

Appeals Court Grants Trump’s Request to Delay Subpoena Over His Tax Returns
President Donald Trump responds to questions from reporters during a news conference at the White House in Washington on Aug. 31, 2020. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
Janita Kan

A federal appeals court has granted President Donald Trump’s request to hold a lower court’s ruling that would have allowed the Manhattan district attorney to enforce his subpoena for the president’s tax returns.

The 2nd Circuit Court ruling on Tuesday allows Trump to temporarily shield eight years of his tax returns and financial documents from being released to New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. while the president appeals the district court decision. Vance has been seeking the documents as part of a grand jury probe.

The appeals court also set a Sept. 25 hearing to allow the parties to argue whether Trump’s claim that the grand jury subpoena is overbroad and issued in bad faith is plausible. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero on Aug. 20 dismissed the claim, saying that Trump’s newest challenge was a roundabout way for the president to invoke immunity from judicial processes.

Earlier on Tuesday, the parties appeared before the appeals court for a brief hearing to argue whether a stay on the district court’s ruling should be granted pending the appeal. During the hearing, Trump’s lawyer told the judges that absent a stay, the president would escalate the dispute to the Supreme Court.

Trump’s lawyers continued to argue that the president would suffer irreparable harm if the documents were disclosed to the district attorney. They said that once the documents are turned over to the district attorney there could be third party requests for the documents and issues arising from grand jury secrecy exceptions.

“We'll be in a new round of problems at that point. And I think it’s fair to say there are innumerable people who might want to make such requests,” William Consovoy, the president’s lawyer, told the court.

Meanwhile, the counsel for the Manhattan district attorney’s office, Carey Dunne, told the court that “the toothpaste can be put back into the tube” if the court later upheld Trump’s latest complaint and the documents had already been turned over to the district attorney.

“The remedies can include not just the destruction or return of the documents, [or] striking of testimony, but yes, ... courts have required the impaneling of a new grand jury so that the new grand jury is not tainted by any exposure to the earlier materials,” he said.

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.

The Supreme Court ruled that Trump was not absolutely immune from state criminal processes but also opened the door for him to challenge Vance’s subpoena on other grounds.

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

After Marrero rejected Trump’s claims earlier this month, the parties agreed to temporarily delay the enforcement of the subpoena until Aug. 28. The parties later agreed to delay enforcement of the subpoena until after the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rules on Trump’s appeal.

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.