WASHINGTON: The United States Supreme Court on Monday (Feb 22) paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former president Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.
The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s long-time accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.
“The work continues,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.
Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.
A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority with three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.
Unlike all other recent US presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company, the Trump Organization.
Trump, who left office on Jan 20 after being defeated in his Nov 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.
READ: Trump seeks return to spotlight with address to conservative meeting
READ: Trump ‘offered Kim Jong Un a ride home on Air Force One’
Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.
The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments, but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment, but US District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.
Vance’s investigation, which began more than two years ago, had focused on hush money payments that Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women – adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal – who said they had sexual encounters with Trump.
In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.
In separate litigation, the Democratic-led US House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court in July sent that matter back to lower courts for further review.