The Supreme Court on Monday refused to intercede in a long-running legal fight between former President Donald Trump and the Manhattan district attorney, clearing the way for New York City prosecutors who are investigating Trump and his company to enforce a grand jury subpoena for his tax records.
The high court’s decision to deny Trump’s request to block the subpoena is a brutal defeat for the former president, who spent years pushing back on efforts to reveal his taxes.
The former president faces a raft of potential criminal charges and civil lawsuits for tax fraud, election tampering and defamation.
Trump has dismissed the Manhattan prosecutors’ investigation as a political “witch hunt” and has repeatedly fought bitter legal battles to keep his tax returns under wraps.
Because of the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, the development does not mean Trump’s financial records will become public.
This is the second time Trump has asked the Supreme Court to protect his financial documents from disclosure to prosecutors. Last summer, the high court rejected Trump’s claims that he was absolutely immune from criminal investigations while in office but sent the case back to lower courts to resolve other legal issues.
In a lengthy statement after the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday, Trump described the investigation as a “witch hunt” and “fascism.” He reiterated the false claim that he won the election, not President Joe Biden, and criticized the Supreme Court, to which he appointed three justices during his four years in office.
“The Supreme Court never should have let this ‘fishing expedition’ happen, but they did,” Trump said. “This is something which has never happened to a president before, it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State.”
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office subpoenaed several years of Trump’s tax returns and financial documents as part of an investigation into alleged hush-money payments made during the 2016 presidential race. Vance’s office indicated that prosecutors are also looking more broadly at possible criminal activity at the Trump Organization.
Trump’s attorneys asked the high court to again intervene in the case after losing the legal battles in lower courts. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled in early October that Trump’s accountant, Mazars USA, must comply with the subpoena, rejecting Trump’s additional claims that it was too broad and was issued in bad faith to harass him.
The appeals court kept a stay of its decision in place while Trump appealed to the Supreme Court.
In court papers asking the high court to intervene, Trump’s attorneys cited concerns that the subpoena, which makes “sweeping demands” and is identical to one issued by Congress, “crosses the line – even were it aimed at some other citizen instead of the President.”
Trump’s attorney, William Consovoy, has previously dismissed the subpoena as politically motivated, repeatedly calling out Vance for issuing a word-for-word copy of a subpoena issued earlier by House Democrats.
Vance’s lawyer, Carey Dunne, told the court that Consovoy is misreading the scope of the investigation and has failed to show that prosecutors are playing politics.
Trump’s taxes:Appeals court clears the way for disclosure of Trump’s tax returns
Trump’s attorneys frame the investigation as stemming from allegations of hush money payments made by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, to cover up alleged affairs. And so they have argued that the subpoenas from Trump’s tax records are over broad.
But Dunne has said the investigation has extended far beyond the payments. Trump has denied the affairs.
The subpoena seeks tax returns, financial statements, engagement letters, underlying support for financial statements and working papers from various entities Trump owned beginning in 2011.
Dunne also rejected claims that the subpoena was politically motivated, arguing that grand jury secrecy laws would prevent any politicians from viewing the subpoenaed documents.
In its 35-page opinion, the 2nd Circuit sided with Manhattan prosecutors, saying that grand juries “must necessarily paint a broad brush” when issuing subpoenas.
“Similarly, the President’s allegations of bad faith fail to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued out of malice or intent to harass,” the court said.
Last fall, Vance’s office told Trump’s lawyers that it intended to enforce the subpoena for Trump’s financial records if the Supreme Court denied a stay of the 2nd Circuit’s ruling — which it did Monday.
In a tweet in apparent reaction to the high court’s decision, Vance said only that “the work continues.”
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