Ap­peals court agrees Trump tax re­turns can be turned over

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Larry Neumeister

NEW YORK >> Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s tax re­turns can be turned over to New York pros­e­cu­tors by his per­sonal ac­coun­tant, a fed­eral ap­peals court ruled Mon­day, leav­ing the last word to the Supreme Court.

The de­ci­sion by the 2nd U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in Man­hat­tan up­holds a lower court de

ci­sion in the on­go­ing fight over Trump’s fi­nan­cial records. Trump has re­fused to re­lease his tax re­turns since he was a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, and is the only mod­ern pres­i­dent who hasn’t made that fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion pub­lic.

In a writ­ten de­ci­sion, three ap­peals judges said they only de­cided whether a state pros­e­cu­tor can de­mand Trump’s per­sonal fi­nan­cial records from a third party while the pres­i­dent is in of­fice.

The ap­peals court said it did not con­sider whether the pres­i­dent is im­mune from in­dict­ment and pros­e­cu­tion while in of­fice or whether the pres­i­dent him­self may be or­dered to pro­duce doc­u­ments in a state crim­i­nal pro­ceed­ing.

“We hold that any pres­i­den­tial im­mu­nity from state crim­i­nal process does not bar the en­force­ment of such a sub­poena,” 2nd Cir­cuit Chief Judge Robert A. Katz­mann wrote.

Ac­cord­ing to the de­ci­sion, a sub­poena seek­ing Trump’s pri­vate tax re­turns and fi­nan­cial in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to busi­nesses he owns as a pri­vate cit­i­zen “do not im­pli­cate, in any way, the per­for­mance of his of­fi­cial du­ties.”

“We are not faced, in this case, with the Pres­i­dent’s ar­rest or im­pris­on­ment, or with an or­der com­pelling him to at­tend court at a par­tic­u­lar time or place, or, in­deed, with an or­der that com­pels the Pres­i­dent him­self to do any­thing,” the 2nd Cir­cuit said. “The sub­poena at is­sue is di­rected not to the Pres­i­dent, but to his ac­coun­tants; com­pli­ance does not re­quire the Pres­i­dent to do any­thing at all.”

Sev­eral weeks ago, U.S. District Judge Vic­tor Mar­rero in Man­hat­tan tossed out Trump’s law­suit seek­ing to block his ac­coun­tant from let­ting a grand jury see his tax records from 2011.

Man­hat­tan District At­tor­ney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. sought the records in a broader probe that in­cludes pay­ments made to buy the si­lence of two women, porn star Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDou­gal, who claim they had af­fairs with the pres­i­dent be­fore the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Trump has de­nied them.

Danny Frost, a spokesman for Vance, de­clined to com­ment.

The lawyer who ar­gued the case on Trump’s be­half be­fore the ap­peals court did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to a mes­sage seek­ing com­ment.

Dur­ing oral ar­gu­ments, Trump’s lawyer told the 2nd Cir­cuit that Trump is im­mune from state crim­i­nal law even if he shoots some­one be­cause he’s pres­i­dent.

Vance’s at­tor­neys have ar­gued that Trump is not above the law while the pres­i­dent’s lawyers have said the Con­sti­tu­tion pro­hibits states from sub­ject­ing the U.S. pres­i­dent to crim­i­nal process while he is in of­fice.

In the sub­poena to Trump’s long­time ac­coun­tant, Vance’s lawyers call for fi­nan­cial and tax records of en­ti­ties and in­di­vid­u­als, in­clud­ing Trump, who en­gaged in busi­ness trans­ac­tions in Man­hat­tan.

The 2nd Cir­cuit noted that Trump has not been charged with a crime, but his lawyers have ac­knowl­edged that he could be crim­i­nally pros­e­cuted af­ter he leaves of­fice.

“Even as­sum­ing, with­out de­cid­ing, that a for­mal crim­i­nal charge against the Pres­i­dent car­ries a stigma too great for the Con­sti­tu­tion to tol­er­ate, we can­not con­clude that mere in­ves­ti­ga­tion is so de­bil­i­tat­ing,” the ap­peals court said. “There is no ob­vi­ous rea­son why a state could not be­gin to in­ves­ti­gate a Pres­i­dent dur­ing his term and, with the in­for­ma­tion se­cured dur­ing that search, ul­ti­mately de­ter­mine to pros­e­cute him af­ter he leaves of­fice.”

Trump’s lawyers have said the probe by Vance, a Demo­crat, is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated.

U.S. Jus­tice De­part­ment lawyers in Washington also urged the 2nd Cir­cuit to re­verse the find­ings of the lower court, say­ing Vance must prove “par­tic­u­lar­ized need” for the records be­fore they are re­leased to a grand jury.

MANUEL BALCE CENETA — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump speaks to reporters upon ar­rival at the White House in Washington, Sun­day, Nov. 3.

MARY ALTAFFER — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Man­hat­tan District At­tor­ney Cyrus Vance ar­rives to talk to reporters at Man­hat­tan Supreme Court in New York. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s tax re­turns can be turned over to state crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tors, a fed­eral ap­peals court in New York ruled Mon­day. The de­ci­sion up­holds a lower-court rul­ing re­ject­ing Trump’s law­suit seek­ing to block his ac­coun­tant from let­ting a grand jury see his tax records from 2011. Vance sought the records in a broader probe that in­cludes pay­ments made to buy the si­lence of two women who claim they had af­fairs with the pres­i­dent be­fore the 2016 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

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