Suing Manhattan DA, Trump Again Delays Financial Scrutiny

MANHATTAN (CN) – Hours after filing a federal lawsuit to avert yet another subpoena on Thursday, President Donald Trump faced down another deadline for his accounting company Mazars to turn over his tax returns. Once again, his legal gambit worked—at least in the short term.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., right, arrives at court on May 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance agreed to stay enforcement of subpoenas that, unbeknownst to the public for weeks, had been due at 2 p.m. today.

Through aggressive federal litigation, Trump stopped another entity from prying into his finances, just as he has done with the House Oversight Committee, House Intelligence Committee, and attorneys general from Maryland and Washington, D.C.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero set oral arguments for Sept. 25 to decide how long the president can delay the New York prosecutor’s scrutiny.

In his latest legal action, President Trump adopts a position that would in practice prevent any law enforcement official in the land from subjecting him to a criminal investigation while he remains in the White House.

“Virtually ‘all legal commentators agree’ that a sitting president of the United States is not ‘subject to the criminal process’ while he is in office,” the 20-page lawsuit declares.

“Yet a county prosecutor in New York, for what appears to be the first time in our nation’s history, is attempting to do just that,” it continues.

Signed by attorney William Convosoy, the combative lawsuit also lists Trump’s accounting firm Mazars USA as a defendant.

“The Framers of our Constitution understood that state and local prosecutors would be tempted to criminally investigate the president to advance their own careers and to advance their own agendas,” the complaint states.

Vance’s spokesman Danny Frost refrained from returning fire in a statement.

“We have received the plaintiff’s complaint and will respond as appropriate in court,” Frost said. “We will have no further comment as this process unfolds in court.”

The Manhattan prosecutor has been trailed by controversy over his decisions not to pursue cases against Trump’s family and disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, declinations that his critics have attributed to campaign contributions.

Vance, who denies those allegations, has since filed state-law claims against Trump’s former campaign manager Paul Manafort and reportedly launched an investigation against the president.

On Monday, the New York Times reported that Vance subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns in connection with a criminal investigation into hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels.

A trove of files made public Thursday substantiate that anonymously sourced reporting, revealing the subpoenas that Vance’s office filed against Mazars and the Trump Organization’s custodian of records in a probe mysteriously titled “Investigation into the Business and Affairs of John Doe.”

Dated Aug. 29, the Mazars subpoena had a deadline of this afternoon and sought a wide swath of files pertaining to Trump and more than 10 of his related entities dating back to Jan. 1, 2011.

In an 18-page memo, Trump’s legal team—comprised of attorneys Alan Futerfas, Marc Mukasey, Patrick Strawbridge, and Convosoy—argued that the search violated the supremacy clause of the Constitution.

“No state can criminally investigate, prosecute, or indict a president while he is in office,” the memo states. “Unlike private civil suits, criminal investigations impose severe burdens on the president and distract him from his constitutional duties. When the prosecuting authority is a state, criminal investigations also violate core principles of federalism and supremacy.”

If accepted, such a rule would go far beyond guidance by the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel that former special counsel Robert Mueller cited as preventing Trump’s federal prosecution.

The president’s legal team did not respond Thursday to an email requesting comment.

Trump’s scorched earth legal strategy in avoiding scrutiny upon his tax returns made today’s lawsuit widely anticipated.

Over the past several months, the president has sued a variety of private and government entities to keep those returns under wraps, including the House Ways and Means Committee, the New York State Attorney General, Mazars USA, Deutsche Bank and Capital One.

Predicting the new litigation earlier this week, former Southern District of New York prosecutor and current defense Harry Sandick noted that stances that Trump’s legal team previously took in New York and Washington could come back to haunt them.

“One of the arguments that they’re making in the federal cases is that, ‘These things are crimes. They can’t be investigated by Congress,’” Sandick told Courthouse News in a phone interview earlier this week. “It’s hard for them to make that argument in one place and then say, ‘Oh, we’re not going to give them to the D.A.’s office, either.”

“At some point it begins to look like, you know, hide-the-ball kind of gamesmanship,” Sandick added.

Indeed, Trump’s attorneys tried to quash congressional subpoenas to Deutsche Bank by telling U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos that, in probing money laundering issues, Congress had been trying to undertake a law enforcement investigation on the sly.

Douglas Letter, the general counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives, swatted that argument aside by noting that Watergate investigated criminal activity without being a law enforcement probe.

Judge Ramos ultimately sided with Congress’s in May, in a ruling currently under appeal in the Second Circuit.

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