Second Circuit Pauses Prosecutor’s Tax Probe of Trump

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. speaks on Feb. 24. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

MANHATTAN (CN) — The Second Circuit paused enforcement of subpoenas seeking President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records for an ongoing grand jury investigation, in a brief ruling on Tuesday. 

The court scheduled oral arguments on the merits of the subpoenas for Sept. 25. 

Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Robert Katzmann will hear the appeal with his colleagues John Walker and Raymond Lohier, representing a bipartisan panel of appointees by Presidents Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Barack Obama, respectively. 

That spells even more delay on Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s probe during an election year. Vance has also promised to hold off two more days following the Second Circuit’s final ruling before obtaining the information from Mazars, the accounting firm that has Trump’s tax records.  

Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the ruling. Vance declined to comment.  

Though the scope of prosecutors’ criminal probe remains unknown, Trump has been fighting to keep a grand jury from seeing his financial records since late last year. He initially claimed that a sitting president, his associates and his businesses have immunity from state criminal proceedings, an argument resoundingly rejected every court that heard it. 

Spurning that expansive view of executive power in July, the Supreme Court allowed Trump to try to fend off his subpoenas by arguing that they are too broad and were designed to harass him. 

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero concluded last month, however, that Trump tried to obtain the same broad immunity the Supreme Court rejected “through a back door.” 

“As this court suggested in its earlier ruling in this litigation, that notion, applied as so robustly proclaimed by the president’s advocates, is as unprecedented and far-reaching as it is perilous to the rule of law and other bedrock constitutional principles on which this country was founded and by which it continues to be governed,” Marrero wrote in a 103-page opinion . 

Marrero had previously described Trump’s claim of absolute immunity from criminal investigation more fitting for a king than a president.  

In oral arguments today, Trump’s attorney William Consovoy characterized the Vance’s investigation as a “fishing expedition.” Consovoy has also complained about trying to fight a moving target. Grand jury secrecy forbids the disclosure of information about prosecutors’ investigation, but Trump’s legal team has speculated that it is a rehash of Michael Cohen’s hush-money scandal. 

Vance’s counsel Carey Dunne splashed cold water on that theory. 

“No facts in [Trump’s] complaint support that inference,” Dunne replied, neither confirming nor denying speculation about the scope to protect the investigation. 

The district attorney signaled a potentially broad investigation earlier this month in a brief stating that he is looking into “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” citing a Wall Street Journal write-up of Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony and two Washington Post articles reporting that the president inflated his assets to lenders and used questionable tactics to sell off his father’s holdings. 

This story is developing …  

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