A federal judge in New York on Monday ruled President Trump’s accounting firm must turn over eight years of his personal and business tax returns, an order immediately put on hold by an appeals court.
The decision came in a lawsuit filed by Mr. Trump against Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and Mazars USA LLP, his longtime accounting firm. Mr. Trump sought to block a subpoena for his tax returns that state prosecutors sent to the accounting firm, saying it was unconstitutional to subject a sitting president to what he called the “criminal process.”
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Mr. Trump’s lawyers filed an emergency appeal minutes after the ruling, leading a judge from the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to put the ruling temporarily on hold “because of the unique issues raised by this appeal.” Mr. Vance’s office asked the court to hear arguments on the matter this week, but it isn’t clear when the panel will rule.
Mr. Vance’s office sent the subpoena to Mazars in August as part of its probe into whether payments made to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, and how these payments were recorded, violate a state law against falsifying business records.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero rejected the idea that a president couldn’t be investigated while in office. “This Court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process,” wrote Judge Marrero, an appointee of President Bill Clinton.
The judge said he recognized that subjecting a president to certain criminal proceedings, such as imprisonment, would interfere with his official duties. But the idea that the president, his business entities, relatives and private activities are immune from any criminal process is too broad, he said.
“This Court finds aspects of such a doctrine repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values,” Judge Marrero wrote.
Responding to the ruling on Twitter, Mr. Trump wrote, “The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump. A thing like this has never happened to any President before. Not even close! “
The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump. A thing like this has never happened to any President before. Not even close!28K people are talking about this
A spokesman for Mr. Vance, a Democrat, declined to comment. Within minutes of the ruling, lawyers for Mr. Trump appealed the decision to the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Last week, the Justice Department weighed in on the case, asking the judge to temporarily block enforcement of the subpoena to allow for further consideration of the legal issues. The Justice Department lawyers also said the dispute should remain in federal court, not state court as requested by Mr. Vance’s office.
In a letter to the judge, prosecutors from Mr. Vance’s office said delaying enforcement of the subpoena would likely result in the statute of limitations expiring for state crimes under consideration. They asked Judge Marrero to dismiss the case. “The Plaintiff’s only goal in this litigation, now supported by the DOJ itself, is to obtain as much delay as possible, through litigation, stays, and appeals,” the state prosecutors wrote.
The state probe comes on the heels of a federal investigation into hush-money payments that concluded this summer. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to charges including violating campaign-finance laws as a result of that investigation, is now in federal prison.
Mr. Vance’s prosecutors have said the tax returns would remain confidential because they are part of a grand-jury proceeding. During a hearing, a lawyer for Mr. Trump said he didn’t think Mr. Vance’s office could make this promise.
“We do not know how the district attorney will respond to a subpoena from Congress,” said the lawyer, William Consovoy. “Would those secrecy laws trump that subpoena?”
Several disputes over Mr. Trump’s tax returns are making their way through federal courts.
Trump’s legal team filed a claim to stop a Manhattan D.A.’s subpoena of his tax returns that said the President cannot be prosecuted or investigated while in office. Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe tells Lawrence why Trump’s lawyers are wrong- and why the tax return subpoena cannot be stopped. Aired on 09/19/19.
A confidential Internal Revenue Service legal memo says tax returns must be given to Congress unless the president takes the rare step of asserting executive privilege, according to a copy of the memo obtained by The Washington Post.
The memo contradicts the Trump administration’s justification for denying lawmakers’ request for President Trump’s tax returns, exposing fissures in the executive branch.
Trump has refused to turn over his tax returns but has not invoked executive privilege. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has instead denied the returns by arguing there is no legislative purpose for demanding them.
But according to the IRS memo, which has not been previously reported, the disclosure of tax returns to the committee “is mandatory, requiring the Secretary to disclose returns, and return information, requested by the tax-writing Chairs.”
The 10-page document says the law “does not allow the Secretary to exercise discretion in disclosing the information provided the statutory conditions are met” and directly rejects the reason Mnuchin has cited for withholding the information.
“[T]he Secretary’s obligation to disclose return and return information would not be affected by the failure of a tax writing committee . . . to state a reason for the request,” it says. It adds that the “only basis the agency’s refusal to comply with a committee’s subpoena would be the invocation of the doctrine of executive privilege.”
“The memo is clear in its interpretation of the law that the IRS shall furnish this information,” said William Lowrance, who served for about two decades as an attorney in the IRS chief counsel’s office and reviewed the memo at the request of The Post.
Daniel Hemel, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School who also reviewed the memo for The Post, said the document suggests a split over Trump’s returns between career staffers at the IRS and political appointees at that agency and the Treasury Department.
“The memo writer’s interpretation is that the IRS has no wiggle room on this,” Hemel said. “Mnuchin is saying the House Ways and Means Committee has not asserted a legitimate legislative purpose. The memo says they don’t have to assert a legitimate legislative purpose — or any purpose at all.”
Last week, Mnuchin told a Senate panel that Treasury Department lawyers held an early discussion about disclosing the tax returns long before Democrats officially demanded the documents in April. He did not reveal details of that deliberation or say what, if any, legal memos he had reviewed.
Some legal experts have held that the law is clear in giving Congress the power to compel the provision of the returns. But other former government lawyers, including two who served in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations, have argued that the law is unconstitutional and could lead to widespread abuses of taxpayer privacy for political aims.
The IRS memo describes how and why Congress has the authority to access tax returns, explaining the origin of the provision and how it has been interpreted over the decades.
It highlights the special powers given to three committees for compelling the release of tax returns: the House Ways and Means Committee, the Senate Finance Committee, and the Joint Committee on Taxation. Other congressional committees, the memo emphasizes, do not have the same authority.
When it comes to the Ways and Means Committee, the obligation to divulge the returns “would not be affected by the failure” to give a reason for the request. By contrast, other committees “must include a purpose for their request for returns and return information when seeking access,” the memo states.
“One potential basis” for refusing the returns, the memo states, would be if the administration invoked the doctrine of executive privilege.
But the IRS memo notes that executive privilege is most often invoked to protect information, such as opinions and recommendations, submitted as part of formulating policies and decisions. It even says the law “might be read to preclude a claim of executive privilege,” meaning the law could be interpreted as saying executive privilege cannot be invoked to deny a subpoena.
Earlier this month, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service published a review of Section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code that found the code “evinces no substantive limitations” on the Ways and Means Committee’s authority to receive the tax returns.
But, the CRS report added, the committee’s authority “arguably is subject to the same legal limitations that generally attach to Congress’ use of other compulsory investigative tools,” including the need to serve some “legislative purpose” and not breach constitutional rights.
“To my knowledge, since at least 1955, when the authority to respond to section 6103 requests was delegated to the IRS Commissioner, no Treasury Secretary has taken control of the response or questioned the legitimacy of the Chairman’s purpose,” Mr. Wyden wrote. “Accordingly, I am concerned that you are failing to apply the law consistently with the statutory text and with longstanding practice.”