Trump Founders Anew in Subpoena Fight Against Manhattan DA

President Donald Trump listens during a Sunday phone call with Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, in his conference room at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. (Tia Dufour/The White House)

MANHATTAN (CN) — The Second Circuit was unanimous Wednesday in refusing to block a subpoena of President Donald Trump’s tax returns for an ongoing fraud investigation headed up by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance. 

Though the scope of the criminal probe remains unknown, Trump has been fighting since late last year to keep a grand jury from seeing his financial records. Vance’s subpoenas are similar to those sought by the House Oversight Committee. 

Trump’s attorney William Consovoy panned the effort as overbroad, politically motivated and a rehash of the federal prosecution of the president’s disgraced ex-fixer Michael Cohen. 

On Wednesday morning, a three-judge panel of the Second Circuit rejected each of those arguments in turn. 

“First, the president’s bare assertion that the scope of the grand jury’s investigation is limited only to certain payments made by Michael Cohen in 2016 amounts to nothing more than implausible speculation,” their unsigned opinion states. “Second, without the benefit of this linchpin assumption, all other allegations of overbreadth — based on the types of documents sought, the types of entities covered, and the time period covered by the subpoena, as well as the subpoena’s near identity to a prior congressional subpoena — fall short of meeting the plausibility standard. Similarly, the president’s allegations of bad faith fail to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued out of malice or an intent to harass.” 

The panel consists of U.S. Circuit Judges Pierre Leval, Robert Katzmann and Raymond Lohier.

Vance’s office declined to comment, and Trump’s counsel Consovoy did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment. 

Another Supreme Court battle is likely imminent, as Vance and Trump agreed to hold off on the subpoenas to the president’s accounting firm Mazars until the high court had its final say. The Supreme Court previously rejected Trump’s effort to declare himself absolutely immune from criminal investigations. 

Just before the original 2019 deadline of Vance’s subpoenas, Trump brought a federal lawsuit leveling the breathtaking argument that no prosecutor, federal or state, can subject a sitting president, his businesses or his allies to the criminal process while he is in office, even if that investigation involves conduct that preceded his term in office.   

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero called that concept “repugnant” to democracy in October 2019.  

“Shunning the concept of the inviolability of the person of the King of England and the bounds of the monarch’s protective screen covering the Crown’s actions from legal scrutiny, the Founders disclaimed any notion that the Constitution generally conferred similarly all-encompassing immunity upon the president,” his 75-page opinion stated. 

A Supreme Court majority agreed with that principle, but it gave Trump another chance to challenge the subpoenas on other grounds. Trump, who has been defeated in every round to date, hopes to change his fortunes in a second high-court battle on the heels of a new confirmation fight.

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