DOJ joins Trump's side in lawsuit over NY subpoena for tax returns

DOJ joins Trump's side in lawsuit over NY subpoena for tax returns
© Greg Nash

The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday intervened in President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham to introduce resolution condemning House impeachment inquiry Support for impeachment inches up in poll Fox News's Bret Baier calls Trump's attacks on media 'a problem' MORE's lawsuit over New York prosecutors' subpoena for his tax returns.

Government lawyers agreed with Trump's personal lawyers that the case belongs in federal court and argued that Trump should receive temporary relief as needed.

"The United States participates now to explain why it is both correct and important that the President’s challenge to the subpoena on account of his office be resolved in federal court rather than in state court, and to support interim relief as necessary to allow for appropriate briefing of the weighty constitutional issues involved," they wrote in a court filing in federal court in New York.

The filing was submitted by top lawyers in the Justice Department's civil division as well as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman.

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The Manhattan district attorney's office in late August issued a grand-jury subpoena to Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, for the president's tax returns and other financial records. Last month, Trump, in his personal capacity, filed a lawsuit in federal court against Mazars and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (D) in an effort to block the subpoena.

Trump is requesting that a judge temporarily enjoin Mazars from complying with the subpoena as the case is adjudicated, while the Manhattan district attorney's office is arguing that the case should be dismissed, and that any legal challenge to its subpoena should take place in state court rather than federal court.

The parties in the lawsuit have agreed for the DA's office to suspend enforcement of the subpoena until either 1 p.m. two business days after a judge's ruling on pending motions or 1 p.m. on Oct. 7, whichever comes first.

In its filing on Wednesday, DOJ argued that the federal court can be involved in the case.

"Congress has provided both subject-matter jurisdiction and a cause of action that authorize this Court to hear the President’s claims, and neither of the District Attorney’s objections to this Court’s exercise of that jurisdiction has merit," DOJ wrote.

DOJ also urged the judge handling the case to establish "a briefing schedule that will permit the type of considered deliberation appropriate for the serious constitutional issues at stake in this proceeding" and to temporarily block the subpoena if needed to preserve the status quo while the case is being considered.

"Doing so will prevent irreparable harm to the President’s asserted constitutional interest in not having his records subjected to state criminal compulsory process in these circumstances, while the District Attorney has identified no prejudice from a short delay to this discrete portion of the grand jury investigation at issue," DOJ said.

In his complaint, Trump argued that the subpoena violates the law because sitting presidents can't be criminally investigated or prosecuted. DOJ did not say in its filing whether it agreed with this argument.

The judge hearing the case is Victor Marrero, who was appointed by former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonCNN: Biden likened Clinton impeachment to 'partisan lynching' in 1998 Trump 'lynching' comparison draws backlash from lawmakers House Democrat pledges 'there will be open hearings' in impeachment inquiry MORE.