President Donald Trump suffered another setback in his effort to guard his financial information as a federal appeals court refused to block the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena to his accountants for tax records.
The 3-0 ruling by the federal appeals court in Manhattan moves the case closer to a possible showdown in the U.S. Supreme Court. If Trump loses there, he may run out of legal ways to halt District Attorney Cyrus Vance from obtaining the records.
The court soundly rejected Trump’s claim that his broad presidential immunity prevents state prosecutors from investigating him or obtaining records from his accountant. A lawyer for Trump argued before the panel last month that Trump could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, echoing his famous 2016 boast, and that criminal charges or even a subpoena for his records would be legally out of bounds.
“Presidential immunity does not bar the enforcement of a state grand jury subpoena directing a third party to produce non-privileged material, even when the subject matter under investigation pertains to the president,” the appeals court said.
Though the ruling was narrow – the court made clear it wasn’t weighing in on whether Trump could be prosecuted or himself required to turn over records – it is still a significant blow to the president. Since declaring his candidacy more than four years ago, he has resisted all demands that he disclose his financial records. Congress is also suing over financial documents.
The appeals case moved with unusual haste, issuing its decision 12 days after arguments. A lower-court judge in New York ruled last month that Trump can’t stop his accountants, Mazars USA, from providing eight years of taxes and other financial documents to Vance, whose office is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records to disguise payments to people.
The appeals court on Monday agreed with U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero that Trump isn’t entitled to an injunction blocking Mazars from complying with the subpoena. Marrero said Trump was seeking “virtually limitless” immunity from criminal investigation. The appeals panel Monday praised Marrero’s “well-articulated opinion.”
William Consovoy, a lawyer for Trump, didn’t immediately respond to a voicemail seeking comment on the ruling. Vance’s office declined to comment.
The judges reversed the part of Marrero’s ruling that the federal court shouldn’t hear the case and that it’s a matter for New York state courts. They sent the case back to Marrero to determine whether any further consideration of the case is needed.
Two judges have already ruled against Trump in other federal cases involving his financial records, and the president has appealed those decisions. In one of the cases, a court in Washington ruled 2-1 against his attempt to block a congressional subpoena for his records.
(c) 2019, Bloomberg · Bob Van Voris