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Politics Supreme Court again rejects Trump’s bid to shield tax returns, other financial records from Manhattan prosecutor

12:31  23 february  2021
12:31  23 february  2021 Source:   washingtonpost.com

What SCOTUS ruling means for Manhattan DA's Trump criminal investigation

  What SCOTUS ruling means for Manhattan DA's Trump criminal investigation After 17 months and two trips to the US Supreme Court, the Manhattan district attorney's criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump's business has received a significant boost with investigators now able to pour over Trump's tax returns and financial records. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images The Manhattan district attorney's office is expected to have access to tax returns and financial records for Donald Trump and Trumg Org within the next few days.

The Supreme Court on Monday rejected former president Donald Trump’s last-chance effort to keep his private financial records from the Manhattan district attorney, ending a long and drawn-out legal battle.

After a four-month delay, the court denied Trump’s motion in a one-sentence order with no recorded dissents.

District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has won every stage of the legal fight — including the first round at the Supreme Court — but has yet to receive the records he says are necessary for a grand jury investigation into whether the president’s companies violated state law.

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Vance responded to the court decision with a three-word tweet: “The work continues.”

Trump has waged an extraordinary battle to keep private his tax records, which every other modern president has released as an expected part of seeking the presidency. The court’s action does not mean Trump’s tax records are to become public — Vance has said they will be protected by grand jury secrecy rules — but is likely to accelerate an investigation that might be Trump’s biggest legal threat.

Vance’s office has assembled a large team of investigators, including from outside the office, who are expected to dive into the tax records quickly once they are obtained. They are being sought not directly from Trump, but from his longtime accounting firm, Mazars, which has said it will cooperate with the subpoena once court challenges end.

Trump closer to legal jeopardy after court ruling on tax returns

  Trump closer to legal jeopardy after court ruling on tax returns The Supreme Court on Monday declined to shield former President Trump's tax returns from a New York grand jury subpoena, a step that could place Trump and his businesses closer to legal jeopardy.Among the handful of cases that could expose the former president to criminal liability, the probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (D) into Trump's financial dealings appears to be the furthest along.The justices' move Monday was a shotAmong the handful of cases that could expose the former president to criminal liability, the probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (D) into Trump's financial dealings appears to be the furthest along.

[N.Y. prosecutor hires forensic accounting experts as Trump criminal probe escalates]

Forensic accounting experts from FTI Consulting are expected to assist prosecutors in assessing whether the Trump Organization manipulated property values for tax breaks, or to obtain favorable loan rates, The Post previously reported.

The investigation is fairly developed but the tax returns are an integral part of the picture. The Supreme Court order — allowing Vance to execute the subpoena — could mean a lot of work is ahead for investigators as the records are voluminous, spanning eight years.

The investigation began as a look into alleged hush money payments to two women during Trump’s 2016 campaign, but is now focused on the Trump Organization’s business dealings.

The Supreme Court’s order Monday did not explain why the court waited four months to act on Trump’s request for immediate action. It seems likely the court did not want to intervene in the weeks before the election. Then it was inundated with challenges to Trump’s loss.

Cyrus Vance: Manhattan DA faces critical decisions in Trump investigation as his time in office runs low

  Cyrus Vance: Manhattan DA faces critical decisions in Trump investigation as his time in office runs low At the helm of the most significant criminal investigation facing Donald Trump, his family and his business, Manhattan's top prosecutor faces a daunting task heading into his final months in office while sifting through millions of newly obtained pages of financial records related to the former President. © Yana Paskova/Getty Images Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance has 10 months left in office.

The current fight is a follow-up to last summer’s decision by the high court that the president is not immune from a criminal investigation while he holds office.

[Supreme Court says Manhattan prosecutor may pursue Trump’s financial records, denies Congress access for now]

“No citizen, not even the president, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority in that 7 to 2 decision.

But the justices said Trump could challenge the specific subpoena, as every citizen may, for being overbroad or issued in bad faith.

A district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York found neither was the case.

Trump’s complaints “amount to generic objections that the subpoena is wide-ranging in nature,” the unanimous 2nd Circuit panel wrote. “Again, 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.”

Similarly, the panel said, “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.”

Manhattan district attorney trying to turn Trump's chief financial officer against him in criminal investigation: Report

  Manhattan district attorney trying to turn Trump's chief financial officer against him in criminal investigation: Report The New York City prosecutor in charge of the criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump's company and finances reportedly has his sights set on the Republican's chief financial officer.Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., a Democrat, is engaging in efforts aimed at "flipping" Trump's business empire CFO Allen Weisselberg, a source familiar with the matter, told the Washington Post. The district attorney reportedly has plans to ask questions about Weisselberg's family in the inquiry, including two of his sons, one of whom works directly for the Trump Organization and the other of whom issued loans to the company.

Vance is seeking eight years of the former president’s tax returns and related documents as part of his investigation into alleged hush-money payments made ahead of the 2016 election to two women who said they had affairs with Trump years before. Trump denies the claims.

Investigators want to determine whether efforts were made to conceal the payments on tax documents by labeling them as legal expenses.

But Vance says there are other aspects of the investigation that have not been publicly disclosed. Court filings by the prosecutors suggest the investigation is looking into other allegations of impropriety, perhaps involving tax and insurance fraud.

Trump’s lawyers told the Supreme Court both of the lower court decisions were faulty. The subpoena was not narrowly tailored, but instead based on one issued by congressional committees. It would cross the line even if it was “aimed at ‘some other citizen’ instead of the president,” wrote Trump’s lawyers William S. Consovoy and Jay Alan Sekulow.

“The court of appeals not only ignored how the district court stacked the deck against the president,” the petition continues. “But it also broke every rule and precedent applicable” to the legal procedure at issue, it said.

Consovoy said it should be easy for the court to at least temporarily put the lower court rulings on hold and hear his case, which in the court’s language is called granting certiorari.

Manhattan prosecutor gets Trump tax records after long fight

  Manhattan prosecutor gets Trump tax records after long fight The Manhattan district attorney’s office enforced a subpoena on Trump’s accounting firm within hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday.The Manhattan district attorney’s office enforced a subpoena on Trump’s accounting firm within hours of the Supreme Court’s ruling on Monday and now has the documents in hand, a spokesperson for the office, Danny Frost, said Thursday.

“The President of the United States requests the opportunity to seek certiorari before his confidential financial records are disclosed to the grand jury and potentially the public,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “Once the records are produced, the status quo can never be restored.”

The appeals court panel shot down his claim that the district attorney’s investigation is limited only to the alleged payments made by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. It said that “bare assertion … amounts to nothing more than implausible speculation.”

Vance and his lawyers have said the records are needed for a grand jury investigation, and pledged at the Supreme Court hearing that they would not be released publicly. Since those battles, the New York Times has published a number of stories about Trump’s tax payments and mounting debt based on records it says it has obtained.

“Similarly,” the ruling says, “the President’s allegations of bad faith fail to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued out of malice or an intent to harass.”

Vance is seeking the records from Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars. In his response to the Supreme Court in the current fight, Vance said that the “obvious explanation for the subpoena’s breadth … is that the investigation had extended beyond the Cohen payments.”

Vance said in his brief to the court that, since the subpoena was first issued more than a year ago, it was time to let the investigation run its course.

Why has Donald Trump fought so hard to keep his tax returns secret?

  Why has Donald Trump fought so hard to keep his tax returns secret? The Supreme Court's rejection Monday of an attempt by Donald Trump to keep Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance from seeing his tax returns (and other financial documents) was rightly cast as a major legal setback for the former President. © CNNMoney/Shutterstock/Getty Images But buried in that conclusion is this nagging question: What is Trump so afraid of? As in: Why has he fought so incredibly hard for the past five-plus years to keep anyone from seeing his taxes? Remember that Trump's view on releasing his tax returns was not always what it is today.

“Applicant has had multiple opportunities for review of his constitutional and state law claims, and at this juncture he provides no grounds for further delay,” Vance wrote. “His request for extraordinary relief should be denied, and the grand jury permitted to do its work.”

Shayna Jacobs contributed

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie: Then-President Donald Trump walks outside the White House last month. © Gerald Herbert/AP Then-President Donald Trump walks outside the White House last month.

House Oversight Committee subpoenas Trump's accounting firm Mazars again .
The House Oversight Committee has issued a new subpoena to accounting firm Mazars USA for a wide swath of records related to former President Donald Trump, which would likely include the ex-President's tax returns.The House Oversight Committee has issued a new subpoena to accounting firm Mazars USA for a wide swath of records related to former President Donald Trump, which would likely include the ex-President's tax returns.

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