Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. can subpoena President Donald Trump’s tax returns, an appeals court ruled Wednesday, making it likely the fight over the documents will return to the Supreme Court.
The three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled unanimously that Trump’s challenges to subpoenas served on his longtime accounting firm did not pass legal muster. Vance’s demand on the firm, Mazars, for eight years of Trump’s returns was not overly broad or issued in bad faith, the court wrote.
“Even if the subpoena is broad, the complaint does not adequately allege that it is overbroad. Complex financial and corporate investigations are broad by default,” the court wrote.
“We hold that none of the president’s allegations, taken together or separately, are sufficient to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued ‘out of malice or an intent to harass.’”
Vance has agreed to hold off on enforcement of the subpoenas — which he first served on Mazars more than a year ago — while the president appeals to the Supreme Court. The high court rejected Trump’s arguments in July that he was entitled to immunity from criminal investigation while in the Oval Office but left an opening for Trump to pursue other legal challenges to the demand.
The DA’s investigation was initially believed to be focused on how the Trump Organization accounted for hush money payments to women before the 2016 presidential election. The women claim to have had affairs with Trump. Vance’s office has revealed in court filings that the probe expanded to include an examination of possible insurance and tax fraud.
The 2nd Circuit panel consisted of two judges appointed by President Bill Clinton, Pierre Leval and Robert Katzman, and Judge Raymond Lohier, who was appointed by President Barack Obama. They signaled their skepticism of Trump’s arguments last month.
Trump’s claim the investigation was limited to the hush money payments was “nothing more than implausible speculation,” the court ruled. Without evidence to back up that claim, Trump’s entire legal challenge fell apart. Vance is simply using a grand jury to follow “every available clue,” as a prosecutor routinely does in investigations, the court found.
“There is nothing to suggest that these are anything but run-of-the-mill documents typically relevant to a grand jury investigation into possible financial or corporate misconduct,” the Appeals Court wrote.
The decision was the fifth court defeat for Trump over the subpoenas.
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