Trump appeals to Supreme Court to keep tax returns from NY prosecutors
President Trump on Thursday appealed to the Supreme Court, asking it to reverse a court order requiring his accountants to hand over eight years of tax returns, in a dramatic escalation of his fight to keep his financial records private.
Trump’s request comes after a federal appeals court in New York last week said Manhattan prosecutors could enforce a subpoena against Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA for his personal and corporate financial records from 2011 to 2018.
In their petition to the Supreme Court, Trump’s personal lawyers called the records request “politically motivated,” and said the subpoena should not be allowed to pierce the immunity the Constitution gives to the president.
“That the Constitution would empower thousands of state and local prosecutors to embroil the president in criminal proceedings is unimaginable,” the petition reads. “Indeed, politically motivated subpoenas like this one are a perfect illustration of why a sitting president should be categorically immune from state criminal process.”
“We have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn the Second Circuit decision regarding a subpoena issued by the New York County District Attorney,” Jay Sekulow, Trump’s lawyer, said in a statement. “The Second Circuit decision is wrong and should be reversed. In our petition, we assert that the subpoena violates the U.S. Constitution and therefore is unenforceable.”
A three-judge panel of the Second Circuit last week said Manhattan prosecutors could obtain Trump’s financial records as part of a grand jury investigation, over Trump’s claims of presidential immunity.
Cyrus Vance Jr., the Democratic district attorney for New York County, agreed not to enforce the subpoena because Trump’s lawyers vowed to quickly appeal, within ten days, to the Supreme Court.
Vance’s office is investigating payments allegedly made to silence two women who allege they had affairs with Trump.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that the president has blanket immunity from criminal prosecution. During a memorable oral argument before the circuit court last month, Trump’s personal lawyer William Consovoy argued that the president could not be prosecuted even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York City.
The three judges on the circuit court panel, all Democratic appointees, said they were not ruling on all of Trump’s broad claims of immunity and whether the president could be prosecuted. But they ruled that any immunity Trump had did not cover a subpoena to his accounting firm.
Trump’s appeal sets up the potential for a historic case before the high court testing separation of powers and the president’s immunity from prosecution.
The Supreme Court will take up the case if four justices sign on to Trump’s request. If the court does take the case, some legal analysts believe a ruling could come next summer, just months before the 2020 election.
Trump has faced criticism for breaking with a decades-long tradition of presidents voluntarily releasing their tax returns, and his petition to the Supreme Court represents a last-ditch effort to keep the documents hidden.
The New York case is one of two legal battles over subpoenas for Trump’s financial records that were expected to reach the Supreme Court.
In a separate case in Washington, D.C., a federal appeals court on Wednesday cleared the way for House Democrats on the Oversight Committee to pursue Trump’s financial records from Mazars. Trump’s lawyers indicated they would also appeal that decision to the Supreme Court.
Updated at 7:00 p.m.