Federal appeals court: Trump must turn over tax records to New York prosecutor
President Donald Trump's accountant must turn his tax records over to Manhattan attorneys, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday and upheld a lower court decision to reject the president's recent efforts to block a grand jury subpoena on his financial records.
The court said a postponement of the lower court's decision will remain in place to allow Trump's attorneys to appeal to the Supreme Court. The matter may not be fully resolved before the November elections.
The US Court of Appeals dismissed the president's allegations that the grand jury subpoena was drawn up too broad and maliciously. The ruling is another blow to Trump, who dismissed the investigation as a political "witch hunt" and fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep his financial records secret.
Trump's attorneys alleged the grand jury's investigation was limited to hush-money payments allegedly made to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump prior to the 2016 presidential election. In its 35-page statement, however, the appellate court stated that this was "nothing more than implausible speculation". The Manhattan Attorney's Office had previously indicated that the prosecutor's office was extensively investigating possible criminal activity at the Trump Organization.
"Similarly, the president's bad faith allegations do not allow a plausible conclusion that the subpoena was made out of malice or with intent to harass," the appeals court said.
Vance declined to comment on Wednesday. A Justice Department spokesman said the department is reviewing the verdict.
In July, the Supreme Court ruled the President could not keep his tax returns and financial records in Vance's office and denied Trump's claims to absolute immunity from criminal investigations. After the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the court has only eight judges.
At a hearing in September, federal appeals court judges were skeptical of Trump's attorney William Consovoy's arguments that the grand jury summons was "a fishing expedition overseas" intended to harass the president.
Judge Pierre Leval said the allegations that the subpoena was issued in bad faith were "fictitious". Judge Robert Katzmann said that big juries have broad authority and wondered if the president's attorney is asking them to change the way big juries have always worked. And Judge Raymond Lohier pressed Consovoy on whether there was a version of the subpoena that he would not consider too broad.
Carey Dunne, Vance's general counsel, said the allegations made by the president's legal team are based on politics and speculation about the scope of the district attorney's investigation. He added that Vance never made public statements about his office's political motivation for targeting Trump and his business.
"If those kinds of facts are missing, to simply say, 'Sometimes prosecutors act with political motivation' ... that's not how it works," said Dunne.
Consovoy argued that the subpoena was "retaliation," saying Vance's office merely "photocopied" a subpoena from Congress issued by House Democrats seeking the same documents. This is "completely unacceptable," said Consovoy.
Consovoy also said that the time period and geographic coverage covered by the subpoena prove it is too broad. The subpoena goes to eight years after Trump's personal and business tax records and covers financial documents outside of New York City.
"If you've looked at the definition of a fishing expedition, this is it," said Consovoy.
Still, the group of three judges appointed by Democratic presidents were apparently not convinced.
Leval said he doesn't think documents spanning several years and covering operations in many places are too broad, especially for a global corporation like the Trump Organization.
"When examining the legality and adequacy of tax returns from individuals or organizations that operate globally, all global activities are relevant ... The same is true for years because there is an important link ... especially with real estate, when depreciation is one such an important matter ... about what is reported for specific years and what is reported for previous years, "Leval said.
The Vance office had agreed to postpone the execution of the subpoena pending the appeals court's decision.
This article originally appeared in the US TODAY: Court of Justice: Trump Must Submit Tax Returns to Manhattan DA
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