- The president’s lawyers had argued in court last month he was immune from being investigated while in office
- Manhattan District Attorney obtained a grand jury subpoena for the returns as part of its investigation into the Trump Organization and potential campaing finance violations
- Trump refused to release his returns voluntarily during the campaign
- DA probing whether Stormy Daniels payoffs and reimbursement constituted a violation
- Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is serving a three-year prison sentence
- President’s legal team immediately filed an appeal on Monday
- The president accused ‘Radical Left Democrats’ of pushing the investigation
The decision put a freeze on a lower court judge’s decision to require immediate compliance with a subpoena that would have put reams of financial information into the hands of prosecutors.
A federal judge in New York earlier Monday ruled a Trump accounting firm must turn over eight years of tax returns and comply with a subpoena in the latest legal turn that could ultimately provide information about the president’s finances.
The judge also said that Trump is not immune from prosecution while in office – something the president’s lawyers had made the center of their case and which will now be at the heart of the appeal.
Soon after the judge issued his blistering opinion, lawyers for the president filed an emergency motion to appeal the decision, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals granted it later Monday. The accounting firm was facing a Monday afternoon deadline to turn over tax returns that were the subject of a grand jury subpoena.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office is seeking the information as part of an investigation that was revealed after longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to facilitating payments to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had an affair with Trump, shortly before Election Day in 2016.
A judicial panel will hear the case on an expedited basis.
In crafting his ruling, District Court Judge Victor Marrero turned aside the argument put forward by Trump’s lawyers that he is immune from prosecution while serving as president.
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office had subpoenaed the returns, both Trump’s personal returns and those from the Trump Organization as part of its wide-ranging investigation.
Scroll down for the federal judge’s ruling
Judge Marrero blasted the sweeping arguments put forward by Trump’s personal attorneys that as a sitting president, Trump should not have to face the same investigatory tactics as ordinary citizens.
‘This Court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process,’ the Bill Clinton nominee wrote in his ruling.
He blasted a ‘virtually limitless’ shield from prosecution that Trump’s private attorneys are seeking to enforce – and even invoked impeachment, writing that: ‘Until the President leaves office by expiration of his term, resignation, or removal through impeachment and conviction, his exemption from criminal proceedings would extend not only to matters arising from performance of the President’s duties and functions in his official capacity, but also to ones arising from his private affairs, financial transactions, and all other conduct undertaken by him as an ordinary citizen, both during and before his tenure in office.’
The judge chided Trump’s lawyers for asserting an ‘extraordinary claim’ by arguing that presidents are ‘immune’ from the wheels of justice while they are in office and argued this would give the president ‘virtually limitless’ power to ignore the U.S. Constitution.
‘That constitutional protection presumably would encompass any conduct, at any time, in any forum, whether federal or state, and whether the President acted alone or in concert with other individuals,’ the judge wrote.
Trump’s lawyers immediately filed an emergency appeal Monday.
Counsel to the president Jay Sekulow provided only a brief statement when asked about the ruling. ‘We are very pleased that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has issued a stay of the subpoena issued by New York County District Attorney Cy Vance,’ he said in a statement.
Cyrus Vance Jr., Manhattan New York district attorney, has subpoenaed eight years of Trump tax returns
Longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is serving a three-year prison sentence. The DA is probing whether Trump contributed any campaign violations related to the payoffs to porn star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal
Trump accused ‘Radical Left Democrats’ of pushing the investigation
The judge further argued that the theory of Trump’s lawyers would extend derivatively to immunize misconduct of ‘any other person, business affiliate, associate, or relative’ who may have collaborated in committing ‘unlawful acts.’
DA Cy Vance’s office obtained a grand jury subpoena for Mazars USA, Trump’s longtime accounting firm, seeking the information, and the firm has acknowledged in court it has return information in its possession.
Vance’s office is probing the Stormy Daniels payoffs and whether they constituted a campaign finance violation that could implicate the president.
The DA is also probing payments that American Media Inc. made to Playboy model Karen McDougal during the 2016 campaign. Both women claimed they had affairs with Trump, which he denies.
Longtime Trump lawyer Michael Cohen is serving a three-year prison sentence in New York in part due to a campaign finance violation he testified was ‘directed’ by Trump
Vance subpoenaed the tax records from the president’s accounting firm Mazars USA on August 29.