Judge sets July 15 deadline for Trump to challenge decision on tax returns
Trump Organization probed in N.Y. over hush money payments
A federal judge in Manhattan has given lawyers for President Trump a Wednesday deadline to say whether he will further challenge a subpoena for his tax documents, part of an ongoing investigation by local prosecutors here into hush money payments made during the 2016 election season.
The order by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero follows Thursday’s highly anticipated Supreme Court ruling in favor of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who had been seeking the president’s tax records as part of a probe into the Trump Organization’s role in the payments. In its ruling, the high court said Trump did not have “absolute immunity” from the state court-level criminal subpoena.
Trump could, however, further contest the grand jury subpoena outside of the presidential immunity question. The subpoena was issued Aug. 29 and has been tied up in appeals as part of a lawsuit brought by Trump since shortly thereafter.
“We will respond as appropriate,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said after Marrero’s order Friday setting July 15 as the deadline by which the parties must say if there will be additional legal challenges.
Marrero, in the two-page order, also scheduled a phone conference for Thursday to discuss future proceedings, should the litigation continue.
Lawyers from Vance’s office previously argued that delays could jeopardize their ability to file charges if any are warranted. The statute of limitations for a misdemeanor falsifying business records count has already passed, and the five-year deadline by which to bring a felonylevel case is approaching.
Vance is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records to conceal alleged payoffs in exchange for silence made ahead of the 2016 election to two women who claimed they had affairs with Trump years ago. Trump has denied the allegations.
In public filings, lawyers for Vance’s office said the records requested “relate to business and financial matters unrelated to any official acts” of the president “and are primarily from the time-period before [ Trump] assumed that office.”
A spokesman for Vance declined to comment Friday.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court shot down Trump’s argument that, as president, he is immune from legal action on a local level and from investigations conducted by Congress. In its Trump v. Vance ruling, the court sent the cases back to lower courts, where, the justices said, Trump also could challenge the specifics of Vance’s inquiry. The ruling said Vance had the authority to look into Trump’s financial records — personal and financial.
Trump’s lawsuit tried to block Vance from being able to subpoena the president’s tax records from his accounting firm, Mazars USA, arguing that he was immune from facing criminal charges in a local court while in office — a claim his personal attorneys have also made in a set of lawsuits pending in New York.
Vance, who called the landmark ruling “a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice,” has been investigating whether the Trump Organization doctored records to conceal hush money payments to two women during Trump’s 2016 campaign. One of the women is outspoken pornography actress Stormy Daniels.
The payments were made by Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and adviser Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty to charges related to campaign finance fraud and tax evasion. Cohen, who had been allowed to serve the remainder of his prison term at home due to coronavirus concerns, was returned to federal custody this week due to a dispute over his home confinement conditions.
Trump could raise a host of new challenges to the Mazars USA subpoena. Details of his tax filings, which he has staunchly refused to release to the public voluntarily as sitting presidents have traditionally done, are not likely to be made public in any fashion before November’s election as both challenges are expected to face further litigation.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing the majority opinion in the 7-to-2 ruling in Trump v. Vance, wrote that the public was entitled to “every man’s evidence,” which “since the earliest days of the Republic” has “included the President of the United States.”