Manhattan D.A. Can Obtain Trump’s Tax Returns, Judges Rule

The Four Percent


The Manhattan district attorney can enforce a subpoena seeking President Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, a federal appeals panel ruled on Wednesday, dealing yet another blow to the president’s yearlong battle to keep his financial records out of the hands of state prosecutors.

The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel in New York rejected the president’s arguments that the subpoena should be blocked because it was too broad and amounted to political harassment from the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat.

“Grand juries must necessarily paint with a broad brush,” the judges wrote.

They concluded that the president did not show that Mr. Vance had been driven by politics. “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,” they wrote.

Mr. Trump is expected to try to appeal the decision in the United States Supreme Court. Mr. Vance has said that his office will not enforce the subpoena for 12 days in exchange for the president’s lawyers’ agreeing to move quickly.

Sitting on the panel were Judges Pierre N. Leval and Robert A. Katzmann, who were appointed by President Bill Clinton, and Judge Raymond J. Lohier Jr., who was appointed by President Barack Obama.

The ruling acknowledged the “public status and visibility” of the president and the political interest in his tax returns.

The judges appeared to craft their decision with those sensitivities in mind, using dry language that was devoid of the colorful imagery that can mark high-profile rulings. The opinion also was issued in the name of the court without crediting an individual judge as its author, giving it the voice of an institution.

Mr. Trump has declined to release his tax returns to the public, breaking with 40 years of White House tradition, and has vigorously fought attempts by Congress and state lawmakers to obtain them.

It remains unclear whether the dispute over the subpoena will be decided before the Nov. 3 presidential election. In court, Mr. Vance’s office has accused Mr. Trump’s lawyers of using delay tactics, which the prosecutors say could end up allowing the statute of limitations to expire on any possible crimes and effectively grant Mr. Trump the immunity to which the Supreme Court ruled he was not entitled.

The president’s lawyers have disputed that characterization. “Our strategy seeks due process,” Mr. Sekulow has said.

Even if Mr. Vance’s office obtains the president’s tax returns, they will be shielded by grand jury secrecy unless Mr. Vance brings criminal charges and the documents are introduced in court.

A recent New York Times investigation, based on more than two decades of confidential tax-return data for Mr. Trump and hundreds of his companies, showed that he paid no U.S. income taxes in 11 of the 18 years that The Times examined. He paid only $750 in both 2016 and 2017.



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