Manhattan DA Holds Off on Enforcing Trump Subpoenas

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance speaks after the verdict in the Harvey Weinstein rape trial on Feb. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

(CN) — Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance indicated on Tuesday that he would not enforce his subpoenas for President Donald Trump’s financial information until the Second Circuit issued its ruling on the case. 

During oral arguments on Friday, U.S. Circuit Judge Pierre Leval suggested that only Vance himself stood in the way of obtaining the records his office sought. 

Vance’s general counsel Carey Dunne denied that in a three-page letter Tuesday morning, blaming the impasse on Judge Leval’s Second Circuit peers who earlier this month issued a headscratcher of a single-page order that the district attorney claims ties his hands. 

“While that order does not explicitly reference a stay of enforcement, there was no other issue in contention either at the briefing or at oral argument on [Trump’s] motion for a stay,” Dunne wrote in his letter. 

The Second Circuit’s stay order paused U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero’s ruling dismissing Trump’s complaint challenging the investigation.

Trump’s attorney William Consovoy claimed that this essentially denied enforcement of the subpoena. 

“The only reason that the president sought a stay was to prevent enforcement of the subpoena, thereby preserving the status quo,” Consovoy wrote. “Awarding that relief, in turn, would be the only reason for the stay panel to grant the motion.” 

In his October 2019 decision, Marrero described Trump’s claims to absolute immunity from criminal investigation as more fitting for a king than a president. The Supreme Court upheld that ruling but gave Trump a window to challenge the subpoenas on other grounds. 

Marrero rejected Trump’s renewed effort as an apparent backdoor effort to obtain the same relief the high court denied. That judge explicitly denied Trump’s request to make Vance hold off on the subpoenas while the president pursued his appeals. 

Vance’s office declined additional comment beyond what is contained in the memo.  

Despite both sides interpreting the prior ruling in the president’s favor, Trump’s counsel sought an order “temporarily preserving the status quo so that he can seek further appellate relief.” 

Trump has every reason to expect the Second Circuit to rule against him. The three-judge panel took turns skewering his attorneys’ arguments last week. 

“Are you asking us to change the ways grand juries have worked since time immemorial?” Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Katzmann asked at one point, referring to the traditional secrecy and breadth of their operations. 

Judge Leval referred to the allegations of Trump’s complaint as “contrived” and inquired whether it asked questions that were “irrelevant.” 

When Trump’s attorney Consovoy indicated that he would consider a subpoena seeking even one document overbroad, U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier—the final member of the panel—responded: “That’s a problem.” 

The three judges have not yet issued their ruling on the merits. 

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