A federal appeals court has unanimously rejected arguments made by lawyers for President Trump regarding a subpoena for his tax returns in a case that’s examining whether he or his business entities engaged in criminal activities over the past several years.
The ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which effectively says the president must allow his accounting firm Mazars USA to hand over tax records for the last eight years to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., will likely be appealed by Trump’s legal team to the Supreme Court.
During the appeals process, the order from the court will likely be stayed, which means Trump’s taxes will almost certainly not be handed over to Vance before the presidential election takes place on November 3.
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Trump’s lawyers lost an argument before the Supreme Court in July related to the same case, when they asserted that the president had “absolute immunity” from all legal cases, including state investigations like Vance’s. In a 7-2 decision, the Court rejected that notion, with Chief Justice John Roberts writing that “no citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding.”
The case was remanded back to lower courts, however, in order to allow other legal challenges by Trump to proceed.
An appeal to the Supreme Court now, which Trump has signaled he would pursue if he lost the case in the appellate court, would have to defend new arguments made by his lawyers to the 2nd Circuit Court. Those arguments center upon claims that Vance’s inquiry was a “fishing expedition,” an overly broad examination for criminal conduct that they say amounted to harassment of the president.
Vance first sought to obtain Trump’s tax records two years ago, and it was believed at that time that his investigation into the president and his businesses was centered on his hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
However, in court filings made from August of this year, Vance explained that his investigation was delving further than that, due to public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” including “public allegations of possible criminal activity at Plaintiff’s New York County-based Trump Organization dating back over a decade.”
The issue of Trump’s taxes has been on the minds of voters since he had promised to share details of his earnings with the American people as a candidate for president in the last election cycle. Trump reneged on that promise, and continues to refuse to share that information with the public. Every serious candidate for president has made their tax returns available for public inspection since the 1970s.
The New York Times reported in September that it had obtained documents that detailed Trump’s earnings and tax payments to the federal government, revealing that he only paid $750 to the feds in his first year of being president (he also paid the same amount the year prior). In 10 of the 15 years prior to him winning office, Trump didn’t pay any federal income taxes at all.
But by the Times’s own admission, the records they pored over were incomplete, and left many questions unanswered, which is why Vance is continuing to pursue a subpoena for Trump’s tax returns.