Trump Flails Against Growing Financial Probe in New York

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. leaves the courthouse in New York on Jan. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) — Calling the subpoenas of President Donald Trump overbroad and “illegally harassing,” Trump’s attorneys complained Monday that New York prosecutors have yet to specify the scope of their financial probe.  

“The district attorney’s attempt to convert this into a pseudo summary-judgment proceeding in which he gets to submit any material he wants — while the president is given no chance to test the strength of that evidence or develop a record — should thus be rejected,” Trump legal team wrote Monday.

The opposition brief comes a week after Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus intimated in a filing that its subpoena for Trump’s tax returns is part of a broader investigation into “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” including potential fraud allegations portrayed in media reports in recent years. 

The footnotes of the memo cited three articles, two by The Washington Post and one from The Wall Street Journal, which include allegations that Trump misrepresented and inflated his net worth to “official looking” statements to lenders and investors. 

Vance’s office initially served a subpoena of Trump’s accounting firm Mazars on Aug. 29, 2019, seeking a wide swath of files pertaining to Trump and more than 10 of his related entities dating back to Jan. 1, 2011.

That September, Trump’s legal team hastily filed suit in the Southern District of New York to quash the probe. While Trump says the subpoenas violate the supremacy clause of the Constitution, Vance’s office has since prevailed at every stage of the proceeding.

The president’s latest brief says Vance’s recent references to media reports are just an example of extrinsic evidence on which the prosecutor is citing impermissibly to dismiss Trump’s complaint. Trump says such evidence cannot be considered because it is not “integral to the complaint.”

One month ago, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that presidents are not immune from state criminal proceedings while in office.

The president has since amended his complaint to allege that the Mazars subpoena is overbroad, was issued in bad faith and illegally harasses the president. 

“The President plausibly alleges that the subpoena is overbroad and was issued in bad faith. That is the only issue before the court at this stage,” Trump’s attorney William Consovoy wrote in a 33-page filing Monday. “The district attorney’s attempt to prematurely litigate the merits at the pleadings stage, including his reliance on extrinsic evidence, should be rejected. Concern for ‘the presidency itself’ requires at least that much.” 

Rejecting the assertion of a broader criminal investigation than previously thought, Trump’s attorneys say the timing of the Trump Organization subpoena and Mazars subpoena support a plausible allegation that the New York grand jury investigation is limited to alleged hush-money payments from 2016, facilitated by Trump’s then-fixer Michael Cohen, to adult actress Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model. 

Trump’s attorneys also accuse Vance of making a wholesale copy of the subpoena issued by the House Oversight Committee, which was purportedly “drafted to pursue purely national and international ends.” 

“The subpoena is overbroad in relation to an investigation into payments made in 2016, and copying a congressional subpoena for nearly a decade’s worth of financial documents and issuing it for no legitimate reason states a claim for bad faith,” Trump’s attorneys wrote. “The District Attorney’s refusal to confront these claims as pled shows just how weak his position is.” 

Vance spokesman Danny Frost said Monday that the Manhattan DA’s office will respond to in court papers. 

In their earlier filing, counsel for the DA’s office wrote in a footnote that the court may take judicial notice of matters of public record, including congressional testimony and news articles, “which are properly considered on a motion to dismiss and do not require conversion of the motion to one for summary judgment.”

The DA’s office has moved to dismiss Trump’s second amended complaint as baseless, saying the lawsuit “merely serves to delay the grand jury’s investigation.”

“Every day that goes by is another day plaintiff effectively achieves the ‘temporary absolute immunity’ that was rejected by this court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court,” wrote lead counsel Carey Dunne. “Every such day also increases the prospect of a loss of evidence or the expiration of limitations periods — the precise concerns that the Supreme Court observed justified its rejection of plaintiff’s immunity claim in the first place.” 

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