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Trump asks Supreme Court to halt subpoena for his tax returns

President Donald J. Trump in the Oval Office (The White House/Flickr)
November 14, 2019

President Donald Trump and his team have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday to block a subpoena for his tax returns, saying that it would distract him from numerous and important duties as president.

The subpoena from the Manhattan-based federal court Judge Victor Marrero seeks Trump’s tax returns since 2011 from his accounting firm, the Associated Press reported.

Trump is not legally obligated to release his tax returns, and his opponents have criticized him for it because most presidents have done so since Gerald Ford began the informal tradition in 1974.

A criminal probe of the president, Trump’s lawyers argue, even at the state or local level, is unconstitutional and unprecedented in U.S. history.

“Allowing the sitting president to be targeted for criminal investigation — and to be subpoenaed on that basis— would, like an indictment itself, distract him from the numerous and important duties of his office, intrude on and impair Executive Branch operations, and stigmatize the presidency,” said the brief signed by chief counsel at the American Center for Law & Justice Jay Sekulow.

A sitting president is immune from facing federal charges due to temporary immunities the Department of Justice provides them, but it does not extend to investigations or charges by local prosecutors.

Trump’s claims of immunity have been rejected so far by lower courts, so he is asking the courts to decide the case by late June in a deal to keep Manhattan district attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. from enforcing the subpoena in the meantime. However, the justices may not make a decision for at least a month.

Judge Marrero decided on Oct. 7 that Trump must turn over his personal and corporate tax returns since 2011, saying in a 75-page ruling that he does not have immunity from investigations or judicial actions.

Marrero described Trump’s stance as “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values,” and that he cannot rule in favor of “categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process.”

The investigation on Trump revolves around whether or not he reimbursed his former attorney, Michael Cohen, for payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels — whose real name is Stephanie Gregory Clifford — regarding her nondisclosure of an alleged affair she had with Trump, which he denies having committed.

Vance’s office had said they would hold off on enforcing the subpoena until two days after Marrero’s ruling, which gave Trump’s team time to appeal, which they did.

If Vance enforces the subpoena, the tax returns will likely not become public. Additionally, the subpoena does “not implicate, in any way, the performance of his official duties,” according to 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann.