2nd Circuit appeals court declines – for now – to block ruling requiring disclosure of Trump's tax returns
WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court on Friday refused to immediately block a judge's decision requiring the disclosure of President Donald Trump's tax returns to a Manhattan prosecutor.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero rejected the president's latest efforts to block a grand jury subpoena for his tax returns – a major loss for Trump, who has dismissed the investigation as a political "witch hunt" and has fought all the way to the Supreme Court to keep his financial records private.
Trump's attorney, William Consovoy, asked for an immediate stay on the ruling pending an appeal, saying disclosure of the president's financial records poses "irreparable harm," even though grand juries are bound by secrecy. The appeals court denied the request and scheduled a September hearing on the matter.
Marrero's ruling comes a little over a month after the Supreme Court ruled Trump cannot keep tax returns and financial records away from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who was investigating hush money payments made during the 2016 presidential race. But the high court said Trump can still raise other objections to the lower court.
The president's attorneys had argued that the grand jury subpoena to Mazars USA, Trump's accounting firm, is overly broad and was issued in bad faith. His attorneys focused on the "uniqueness" of Trump's job, arguing he is "constitutionally different" from other branches of government and deserves special treatment.
Marrero rejected the arguments, which he said are similar to claims of absolute immunity he and the Supreme Court had already rejected.
High court rejects absolute immunity:Supreme Court says President Trump cannot keep tax, financial records from prosecutors
"Certainly ... the President holds a unique position in the country's constitutional system, and hence merits utmost respect to check unjustified encroachment on presidential powers and duties, and so prevent impairing the President's ability to discharge executive branch functions," Marrero wrote in his 103-page opinion.
But that does not mean the president should receive more special privilege in the judicial process than any other person, Marrero wrote, citing previous court rulings finding that a president must comply with subpoenas to produce unofficial records. The judge also said Trump's broad claims of absolute immunity could have adverse legal consequences.
"At its core, it amounts to absolute immunity through a back door, an entry point through which not only a President but also potentially other persons and entities, public and private, could effectively gain cover from judicial process," Marrero wrote.
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Trump suggested that the case will end up back in the Supreme Court.
"This is just a continuation of the most hideous witch hunt in the history of our country," the president said, asserting that the Supreme Court called the subpoena a "fishing expedition," which it did not.
Chief Justice John Roberts said just the opposite, writing that while state prosecutors have political motivations, grand juries can't engage in "arbitrary fishing expeditions" or initiate investigations "out of malice or an intent to harass."
Vance's office declined to comment.
Earlier this month, Vance suggested that his office's investigation goes beyond the hush money payments made to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump and that prosecutors are looking broadly at the Trump Organization.
Manhattan prosecutors asserted in court records that the grand jury subpoena was issued at a time when the Trump Organization was at the center of "allegations of possible criminal activity ... dating back over a decade."
Prosecutors also said that arguments by Trump's lawyers blocking the subpoena were based on a "false premise" that the investigation is limited to the hush money payments. The prosecutors cited public reporting on "possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization."
Contributing: Richard Wolf, Kevin Johnson and David Jackson, USA TODAY