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Judge's order releasing Trump's tax returns and blasting 'repugnant' immunity claim put on hold

Politics Oct 07, 2019 08:04PM ET
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© Reuters. An excerpt from a ruling handed down by a federal judge discussing whether or not U.S. President Donald Trump must hand over eight years of tax returns to Manhattan prosecutors in New York
 
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By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge on Monday said eight years of U.S. President Donald Trump's tax returns must be provided to Manhattan prosecutors, forcefully rejecting the president's argument that he was immune from criminal investigations.

Trump's returns will not be turned over immediately, after the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan granted the president's request to temporarily block the order, handed down by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero.

The Manhattan judge had called the immunity claim "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values," and said he could not "square a vision of presidential immunity that would place the President above the law."

His 75-page decision complicates Trump's battle to keep his finances under wraps, despite having promised during his 2016 White House run that he would disclose his tax returns.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, had subpoenaed personal and corporate tax returns from 2011 to 2018 and other records from Trump's longtime accounting firm Mazars USA.

The subpoena was part of Vance's criminal probe into the Republican president and his family business.

Marrero's decision would have forced Mazars to start turning over documents on Monday afternoon, but the appeals court said the case had "unique issues," justifying a delay.

The court said it may hear Trump's appeal as soon as the week of Oct. 21 to 25. Trump has not been accused of criminal wrongdoing.

Two committees of the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives have separately subpoenaed Deutsche Bank AG (DE:DBKGn) for Trump's financial records, which include tax returns.

"The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump," Trump tweeted after Marrero's decision. "A thing like this has never happened to any President before. Not even close!"

In suing Vance last month to block his subpoena, Trump said he was immune from criminal probes while in the White House and that the U.S. Constitution required Vance to wait.

HOUSE PROBE

The Constitution does not say whether sitting presidents can be indicted, and the Supreme Court has not decided the issue.

Federal prosecutors cannot charge sitting presidents because presidents have temporary immunity, according to the Department of Justice, but that does not block criminal probes by state-level prosecutors like Vance or even federal prosecutors.

"It's uncharted legal terrain," Jens David Ohlin, vice dean at Cornell Law School, said in an interview."If the framers of the Constitution desired a president who was completely immune from all forms of criminal prosecution, they would have said so," he added. "The counterargument is that the Constitution would prohibit it because it would infringe on the president's ability to govern the country."

Vance issued the subpoena four weeks after issuing another subpoena to the Trump Organization for records of hush money payments, including to two women prior to the 2016 election who said they had sexual relationships with Trump, which he denies.

Those payments were made to Stormy Daniels, a porn star whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, with the involvement of Trump's now-imprisoned former lawyer Michael Cohen.

Trump is also trying to block the House subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and is awaiting a ruling from the 2nd Circuit.

The House probes are separate from the debate over whether Trump should be impeached because of his dealings with Ukraine.

Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, said he was pleased the Vance subpoena was put on hold. Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance, declined to comment.

The Justice Department, which opposed dismissing Trump's challenge to the subpoena, declined to comment.

Mazars did not respond to requests for comment, but has said it would comply with its legal obligations.

'OVERREACH OF EXECUTIVE POWER'

In his decision, Marrero, who was appointed by Democratic President Bill Clinton, declined to assert jurisdiction over the Vance subpoena, saying Trump should have brought his case in a New York state court.

But the judge made clear that if the appeals court disagreed with that finding, Trump should lose.

Marrero said the president failed to show that enforcing the subpoena would interfere with his presidential duties, cause irreparable harm or be against the public interest.

He also rejected as too broad the idea of shielding Trump, his family and his businesses from criminal process.

"The expansive notion of constitutional immunity invoked here to shield the President from judicial process would constitute an overreach of executive power," Marrero wrote.

Marrero said even President Richard Nixon conceded during the Watergate scandal that he would be required to produce documents in response to a judicial subpoena.

Trump's lawyers said the case raised "momentous" questions about the president's immunity and complying with the subpoena would cause irreversible damage.

"There will be no way to unscramble the egg scrambled by the disclosure," the lawyers said in a court filing.

Trump is running for re-election. His current term ends on Jan. 20, 2021.

Judge's order releasing Trump's tax returns and blasting 'repugnant' immunity claim put on hold
 

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Comments (8)
Hank Williams
Hank Williams Oct 07, 2019 8:16PM ET
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There is a lot of ignorance in this country.
Tonemeister CEO
Tonemeister CEO Oct 07, 2019 4:17PM ET
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The irony of Rusia interfereing in US elections with few million dollars and some Facebook accounts, contrasted against the US democrats and President Clinton assisting Boris Yeltsin get elected with BILLIONS spent by the US the IMF with Clintons pressuring them. Lets not speak of Democrats spending up big again trying to pivot swing Ukrain to the EU that infuriated Russians. Yep,....nothing to see. What ever happened the USA? This coming US election will be the MOST BRUTAL in history. You will never see anything like it again in your life time....perhaps not ever. God save America.....please.
FRANK FASULO
FRANK FASULO Oct 07, 2019 2:57PM ET
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all poltions should also be made to show there's to
michael hammer
michael hammer Oct 07, 2019 1:27PM ET
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How much you want to bet they get "accidentally" leaked and no one is held responsible for mismanagement of personal financial information?
Hank Williams
Hank Williams Oct 07, 2019 12:41PM ET
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The kitchen is getting HOT Koch Group. What are you going to do with your stooge?
Big Guy
Big Guy Oct 07, 2019 12:41PM ET
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Koch supports the Democrats...kook
Hank Williams
Hank Williams Oct 07, 2019 12:40PM ET
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I bet they disappear.
Andrew carson
Andrew carson Oct 07, 2019 11:50AM ET
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He's rich, good for him. I don't care about his taxes.
Adrian White
Adrian White Oct 07, 2019 11:50AM ET
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It's not his taxes that are important (although if he has made false filings then that's a different story). It's the information (that Trump refuses to disclose) that his tax filings could show that is important. For example, any potential conflicts of interest he has that cause him to make decisions that help him personally rather than what's good for the country. Or any financial dealings that allow outsiders to hold leverage over him, and affect his decisions, etc. These are things that every American should care about if you want your president to serve you rather than himself and his family first.
Zoltan McVeigh
Zoltan McVeigh Oct 07, 2019 11:50AM ET
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You keep talking of this conflict of interest. Besides Trump, who else is bond by this full disclosure and never ending investigations? Sitting Vice President using government aid to force the hand of a foreigner leader for personal gain? Currently campaigning for the democratic nomination.
Thom Miller
Thom Miller Oct 07, 2019 11:20AM ET
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Ukrainian phone call, troop removal from Syria, tax returns. Closing in on all sides now. You can run, but you can’t hide, Donald....Tata!
Moses Chege
Moses Chege Oct 07, 2019 11:20AM ET
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Deep state in action
Don Getty
Don Getty Oct 07, 2019 11:20AM ET
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Moses Chege  yes Putin definitely has his hand in this!
 
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