U.S. judge orders release of President Trump's tax records, appeals court issues delay

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Thursday, October 10, 2019

On Monday, United States District Court Judge Victor Marrero issued a ruling against President Donald Trump finding that New York City prosecutors could view his tax records after a subpoena issued by a grand jury. The Manhattan district attorney's office is investigating Trump over alleged hush money paid to two women with whom he has been alleged to have had affairs. Such payments could be considered bribery. President Trump sued Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. and his own tax preparer Mazars USA to block the release of eight years of tax returns to the grand jury, but Judge Marrero dismissed the president's lawsuit. The president's legal team appealed the decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which issued an administrative stay to Marrero's order about an hour and a half after the district court ruling.

The appeals court ruling placed a stay on the district court's ruling until it hears arguments from the president's lawyers and District Attorney Vance's office. According to a court clerk, arguments in the case would be scheduled as soon as the week of October 21, with briefs from both parties due in the intervening time until then.

Trump had asked the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York intervene in a New York City criminal proceeding, in which a subpoena had been issued to Trump's tax preparer. He sought such intervention to prevent Mazars from releasing his tax returns, arguing that, as president, he should be immune from prosecution, and that, by extension, his tax preparer, Mazars USA, could likewise be exempt from investigation. Marrero rejected this argument:

The notion of federal supremacy and presidential immunity from judicial process that the President here invokes, unqualified and boundless in its reach as described above, cuts across the grain of [...] constitutional precedents. It also ignores the analytic framework that the Supreme Court has counseled should guide review of presidential claims of immunity from judicial process. Of equal fundamental concern, the President's claim would tread upon principles of federalism and comity that form essential components of our constitutional structure and the federal/state balance of government powers and functions. Bared to its core, the proposition the President advances reduces to the very notion that the Founders rejected at the inception of the Republic, and that the Supreme Court has since unequivocally repudiated: that a constitutional domain exists in this country in which not only the President, but, derivatively, relatives and persons and business entities associated with him in potentially unlawful private activities, are in fact above the law.

Because this Court finds aspects of such a doctrine repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values, and for reasons further stated below, it ABSTAINS from adjudicating this dispute and DISMISSES the President's suit.

– United States District Judge Victor Marrero, "Decision and Order"

Following Marrero's order, the appeals court issued a stay, delaying Mazars' compliance with the subpoena until it could review the case.

Trump responded to the ruling via Twitter, attacking the subpoena as a political strategy: "The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump."

The Manhattan district attorney's office began its probe into Trump's financial affairs after his former lawyer Michael Cohen was convicted of federal campaign finance law violations connected to payments made to porn actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal to remain silent about alleged affairs with Trump. Cohen is serving a three-year-long prison sentence.

Trump has admitted to ordering the payments, according to prosecutors, but the U.S. Justice Department maintains a policy of not charging the sitting president with crimes.

In recent United States history, it has been customary, but voluntary, for presidential candidates to release their tax returns when running for office. Trump was the first president to refuse to do so since 1976. Trump has cited an Internal Revenue Service audit as prohibiting him from releasing them. The president has a lawsuit to prevent a New York State law from allowing the House of Representatives' Committee on Ways and Means from gaining access to his records.


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