Trump Takes Fight Over His Tax Returns to Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (CN) – Private attorneys for President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to block a subpoena seeking access to nearly a decade of the president’s personal financial records, including his tax returns, claiming a constitutional guarantee of presidential immunity.

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the Target Center, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The request stems from a grand jury subpoena served on Trump’s accounting firm by state prosecutors in New York seeking access to eight years of Trump’s financial records and those of his business. Prosecutors seek the records as part of a criminal probe into alleged hush-money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the 2016 election.

After initially seeking the records directly from the Trump Organization, prosecutors in Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s office moved to subpoena Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA.

The subpoena was similar to requests congressional committees drew up that have also been tied up in litigation. The D.C. Circuit on Wednesday allowed one of those subpoenas to stand in a decision that is likely to go to the Supreme Court as well.

In September, Trump’s private attorneys sued to block the New York subpoena on the basis that as president, Trump is immune from state criminal proceedings. The Justice Department backed Trump’s arguments in the case.

At the beginning of October, a federal judge in New York denied Trump’s request and dismissed the case. Trump quickly appealed the decision to the Second Circuit, which temporarily blocked the subpoena while it heard arguments.

The Second Circuit decided the case on Nov. 4 and allowed the subpoena to stand.

In a 37-page petition filed with the Supreme Court on Thursday, Trump’s attorneys urged the justices to consider the case because it raises questions of is of immense gravity, specifically those concerning the power of the president.

“For the first time in our nation’s history, a local prosecutor has issued criminal process – this grand-jury subpoena – directed at a sitting president, as part of a criminal investigation into the president himself,” the petition states. “Whether the Constitution permits an assertion of this kind of authority over the chief executive raises a momentous question of first impression about the scope of presidential immunity.”

The petition argues the president “is different from all other constitutional officers” and that allowing state prosecutors to use criminal proceedings against the president would upset key constitutional principles like the supremacy of federal laws over state laws.

Trump’s attorneys also argue that allowing the subpoena to stand would go against the longstanding view, which comes from the Constitution, that presidents cannot be prosecuted while in office.

In a statement, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said the Second Circuit’s decision “is wrong and should be reversed.”

“In our petition, we assert that the subpoena violates the U.S. Constitution and therefore is unenforceable,” Sekulow said. “We are hopeful that the Supreme Court will grant review in this significant constitutional case and reverse the dangerous and damaging decision of the appeals court.”

A spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment on the petition.

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