The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to block a New York grand jury from obtaining President Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns, a decisive defeat in his prolonged legal battle to keep his tax records out. at the hands of investigators.
The ruling doesn’t mean the returns will become public anytime soon, and they might never be made public. Under state law, documents handed over to a grand jury must be kept secret. But Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance can now ask Trump’s accountants to turn over documents the president has steadfastly refused to turn over to prosecutors or Congress.
“The work continues,” Vance said in response to the Supreme Court order.
Trump issued a lengthy statement denouncing the order as a continuation of a politically motivated witch hunt and vowed to “keep fighting.”
“The Supreme Court should never have let this ‘fishing expedition’ happen, but it did,” the statement said. “This is something that has never happened to a president before, all of this is Democratic inspiration in a totally Democratic place, New York City and the state, completely controlled and dominated by one of my very enemies. publicized Governor Andrew Cuomo. “
Vance is seeking tax returns spanning eight years for a grand jury investigation into silence payments and other financial transactions. The investigation began after it was revealed that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $ 130,000 to keep quiet about her claim that she had an affair with Trump, an allegation the former president denied.
Cohen also alleged in Congress that the Trump organization sometimes lied about its financial situation in order to evade tax or obtain favorable loan terms.
In July, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s claim that, as sitting president, he was immune from any part of the criminal justice system – including grand jury investigations. But the ruling said he could go back to lower courts and make the same arguments to anyone who tries to defeat a subpoena.
A month later, a New York federal judge spoke out against Trump’s renewed efforts to have the subpoena dismissed, describing the legal attack as just a repackaged version of his original immunity argument. The US 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ruling.
Trump’s legal team said the subpoena was grossly excessive and issued in bad faith to harass him. If all Vance was looking at were the payments made by Cohen, they said, that wouldn’t explain why Vance simply copied a much larger subpoena issued by a congressional committee.
The first subpoena issued by a state for the cases of a sitting president should have been properly adjusted, they told the Supreme Court.
“Its almost unlimited penetration time, reach and geographic reach have all the characteristics of a fishing expedition,” its lawyers told the Supreme Court. “And the fact that the subpoena was issued to a third-party custodian while tensions were high between the Trump organization and the district attorney, and for dubious reasons of effectiveness, only makes the allegation wrong. faith all the more plausible. “
But in recent court documents, Vance hinted that the scope of his work may be broader than just silent cash payments.
“The investigation relates to a variety of business transactions and is based on information from public sources, confidential informants and the grand jury process” and could include falsification of business records, insurance fraud and fraud tax, Vance told the appeals court.
Now that the Supreme Court has cleared the way for Vance to enforce the subpoena, the president has exhausted his legal options to block it. The complete tax return documents, or parts of them, would only become public if Vance brings criminal charges at a later date and seeks to present them as evidence.
Trump’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA has said it is aware of the Supreme Court order and “remains committed to fulfilling all of our professional and legal obligations.”
The firm added that it could not publicly discuss the services it provides to clients without their consent or as required by law.
Tom winter contributed.