Manhattan D.A. Can Enforce Subpoena For Donald Trump’s Tax Returns, Appeals Court Rules

Manhattan D.A. Can Enforce Subpoena For Donald Trump’s Tax Returns, Appeals Court Rules

October 7, 2020

Donald Trump was dealt another setback in his latest effort to squelch a grand jury subpoena for his tax returns, after a federal appellate court ruled that Manhattan’s district attorney’s attempt to obtain the documents was not overly broad or done in bad faith.

While the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruling is another legal victory for Manhattan’s district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., it does not mean that he can immediately obtain the records.

In their unanimous decision, a three-judge panel rejected arguments from Trump’s lawyers that Vance was engaged in a “fishing expedition.”

“It would be impossible for grand juries and district attorneys advising them to fashion document subpoenas with such refinement and precision that every document called for is useful in the criminal investigation,” the judges wrote. “Grand juries must necessarily paint with a ‘broad brush.’”

Vance and Trump’s legal team have agreed to a 12-day period where the ruling will be stayed pending an appeal to the Supreme Court. That raises the question of timing, and whether Vance can obtain the records before the Nov. 3 election. Even if he did, the information would not be immediately made public.

It also sets up questions for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett as she faces confirmation hearings starting next week. Democrats already are likely to ask her whether she would recuse herself from Trump’s personal legal challenges.

The latest legal wrinkle comes as at least some of Trump’s financial information has been reported, even as he calls it “fake news.” The New York Times last week obtained tax return data from years of Trump’s returns, showing heavy losses and that he paid just $720 in taxes in 2016 and 2017.

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in July that Trump did not have immunity from the subpoena for his records, but they did say that the president could still challenge on other grounds. The subpoena was of Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA.

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