US Supreme Court deals massive blow to Trump

By , K24 Digital
On Tue, 23 Feb, 2021 10:08 | 2 mins read
Former United States President Donald Trump. PHOTO/Courtesy
Former United States President Donald Trump. PHOTO/Courtesy

The Supreme Court cleared the way for a New York prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump's tax returns, dealing a massive loss to Trump who has fiercely fought to shield his financial papers from prosecutors.

The documents will be subject to grand jury secrecy rules that restrict their public release.

The ruling is a bitter loss for Trump, even if the tax records are shielded from public disclosure, after he consistently argued that the subpoena issued by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance was overbroad and issued in bad faith.

It means that the grand jury investigation into alleged hush money payments and other issues will no longer be hampered by Trump's fight to keep the documents secret.

The district attorney's office is expected to have access to the records within the next few days, according to people familiar with the matter.

Monday's ruling was issued without comment or noted dissent.

Vance celebrated the order, saying in a tweet, "The work continues."

The subpoenas span documents from January 2011 to August 2019, including his tax returns, from Mazars. The documents relate to the Trump Organization's employment of Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen and hush money payment Cohen allegedly made to two woman who claimed to have had extramarital affairs with Trump.

Although Trump's personal lawyers may continue to fight their appeal in the case, the fact that the documents will be released by Trump's accounting firm, Mazars, effectively ends the dispute.

In a statement, the former President said the Vance investigation "is a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country."

He added: "The Supreme Court never should have let this 'fishing expedition' happen, but they did."

Mazars, in a statement, says it is "committed to fulfilling all of our professional and legal obligations."

The company adds: "Due to our industry's professional obligations Mazars cannot discuss any clients, or the nature of our services we provide for any client, in a public forum without client consent or as required by law."

Last July, the Supreme Court, voting 7-2, rejected the Trump's broad claims of immunity from a state criminal subpoena seeking his tax returns and said that as president he was not entitled to any kind of heightened standard unavailable to ordinary citizens.

The justices sent the case back to the lower court so that the president could make more targeted objections regarding the scope of the subpoena.

In October, a federal appeals court said "there is nothing to suggest that these are anything but run-of-the-mill documents typically relevant to a grand jury investigation into possible financial or corporate misconduct."

Trump's personal lawyers then took the case back to the Supreme Court, urging the justices to put the lower court ruling on hold while the justices considered whether to take up the appeal.

"The subpoena is geographically sprawling, temporally expansive, and topically unlimited --all attributes that raise suspicions of an unlawful fishing expedition," William Consovoy wrote. "Even if disclosure is confined to the grand jury and prosecutors," he said "once the documents are surrendered" confidentially "will be lost for all time."

Vance has been bolstering his team while waiting for the Supreme Court's ruling.

Mark Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan and a well-regarded defense lawyer and trial attorney with an expertise in financial institutions, was sworn into office earlier this month as a special assistant district attorney, Vance's office said.

Vance's term runs through the end of the year and he has not said whether he will seek reelection. Several Democratic candidates, including former prosecutors, have already declared their intention to challenge Vance for district attorney.