Judge sets July 15 dead­line for Trump to chal­lenge de­ci­sion on tax re­turns

Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion probed in N.Y. over hush money pay­ments

The Washington Post - - NEWS - BY SHAYNA JA­COBS shayna.ja­cobs@wash­post.com Robert Barnes con­trib­uted to this re­port.

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.”

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