A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected President Donald Trump’s request to shield his tax returns from a Manhattan District Attorney who has been seeking access to the documents as part of a grand jury probe.
In an unsigned opinion, the three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court in New York upheld a lower court’s ruling that allowed New York County District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. to enforce his subpoena seeking his eight years of tax returns and financial document from the president’s accountant.
The panel rejected Trump’s argument that the subpoena was overbroad and thus issued in bad faith. The subpoena, they said, was not “plausibly” overbroad because Trump’s “bare assertion” that the scope of the grand jury probe is limited only to “hush money” payments made in 2016 is “nothing more than implausible speculation.”
Trump’s argument that the subpoena was similar to a prior Congressional subpoena, and thus overbroad, was characterized as falling short of the plausibility standard, the judges said. They added that Trump’s legal team also failed to show that the subpoena was issued out of malice or intent to harass.
“We have considered all of the President’s remaining contentions on appeal and have found in them no basis for reversal,” the panel wrote (pdf).
Although the appeals court ruled in favor of the Manhattan district attorney, he would not able to immediately enforce his subpoena if Trump’s legal team decides to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.
One of Trump’s lawyers, William Consovoy, who argued the case, did not immediately respond to The Epoch Times’ questions about a potential appeal.
But Jay Sekulow, another lawyer of the president’s, told CNBC on Wednesday that he intends to ask the nation’s top court for a stay of the 2nd Circuit Court’s decision while the Supreme Court decides on whether to accept a planned request to review the case again.
The case was previously heard by the Supreme Court last term after Trump’s legal team failed to convince lower courts that the president had absolute immunity from state criminal subpoenas. The top court rejected that argument, saying that “no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.” However, the top court left the door open for the president to seek recourse, suggesting that Trump could still challenge the subpoena on other grounds.
Trump’s legal team then filed a second challenge against the subpoena in late July, arguing that the subpoena was overbroad and issued in bad faith.
The district court rejected Trump’s bid by characterizing Trump’s newest challenge as a roundabout way for the president to invoke immunity from judicial processes. The judge, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero, said that the president’s move embodies “a novel application of presidential immunity to protect the executive branch from judicial process.”
“At its core, it amounts to absolute immunity through a back door, an entry point through which not only a President but also potentially other persons and entities, public and private, could effectively gain cover from judicial process,” Marrero wrote.
Trump has been fighting Vance’s subpoena since September 2019. It was initially believed that Vance was investigating hush money allegedly paid to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign: adult film performer Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. Trump had denied any wrongdoing in connection with the two women.
But recent court filings suggest that the scope of the Manhattan DA’s probe might be broader than what was previously known.
In one of Vance’s latest filings, the prosecutor suggested that Trump and his businesses could be investigated for criminal tax fraud.