(CN) – Taking President Donald Trump’s side, the Justice Department on Friday asked the Second Circuit to block the release of Trump’s tax returns to the Manhattan district attorney’s office.
The Justice Department filed an amicus brief in the closely watched case, arguing the request for personal documents of the president of the United States by a state law enforcement entity violates the principles of federalism and the separation of powers between state and federal governments.
“As an overarching matter, any assertion of state criminal jurisdiction over the president raises significant constitutional issues,” wrote Justice Department lawyer Gerard Sinzdak in a 36-page brief.
The Justice Department, which is overseen by Attorney General William Bar, stopped short of echoing an argument frequently forwarded by Trump: that U.S. Presidents have immunity from any and all criminal investigations.
Instead, the Justice Department argued Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance failed to specify why he needs the tax returns in his ongoing investigation and whether he had exhausted all other avenues of seeking the information he sought.
“It is well established that, where a federal prosecutor or grand jury seeks privileged information from the president, a ‘demonstrated, specific need’ for the records requested must be established,” Sinzdak wrote.
Vance subpoenaed Trump’s tax returns as part of an investigation into hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels dispersed by Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. Daniels said she and Trump engaged in an extramarital affair, which Trump denies.
Specifically, Vance is looking into whether laws were broken when Trump Organization reimbursed Cohen for the payments. Cohen is currently serving three years in federal prison stemming from a raft of charges including trying to influence the 2016 election by paying Daniels to keep her quiet.
After Vance sought to obtain the personal tax returns of the president and similar financial records from Trump Organization dating back to 2011 from the accounting firm Mazars USA, Trump sued Vance claiming the subpoena was politically motivated and violated the separation of powers.
On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero tossed Trump’s lawsuit in a scathing ruling that castigated the president for attempting to arrogate the rights of a king while repeatedly insisting he is above the law.
“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,” Marrero wrote in a 75-page opinion.
The president then appealed the decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued an emergency stay in the case while it considers the merits.
While the stay means Trump does not have to disclose his tax returns to Vance, the president suffered a similar legal defeat in a separate court on Friday, when a three-judge panel for a federal appeals court ruled the House Oversight Committee could demand eight years of Trump’s tax returns from Mazars.Follow @@MatthewCRenda
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