Manhattan DA asks judge to toss Trump bid to keep tax returns secret

Trump is "seeking to invent and enforce a new presidential 'tax return privilege,'" the New York prosecutors said.
Image: Donald Trump
Prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney's office want a judge to throw out President Donald Trump's bid to block them from looking at his personal and corporate tax returns.Evan Vucci / AP

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By Tom Winter and Dareh Gregorian

Prosecutors from the Manhattan District Attorney's office want a judge to throw out President Donald Trump's bid to block them from looking at his personal and corporate tax returns.

The office of Manhattan D.A. Cyrus Vance subpoenaed Trump's accountants for the returns late last month as part of a criminal investigation into the Trump Organization over hush money payments made to two women who had alleged affairs with the president. Trump has denied the affairs.

Trump's lawyers filed suit in federal court to block the request, arguing in part that Vance isn't entitled to the returns and that "'[v]irtually all legal commenters agree' that a sitting president of the United States is not 'subject to the criminal process' while he is in office."

In its filing with the judge on Monday, Vance's office said the argument "lacks merit" and must be dismissed.

Trump's "claims rely on the remarkable proposition that a sitting President enjoys not only a blanket immunity from criminal prosecution, but (1) that this blanket immunity also protects a president from having to respond to any routine, lawful grand jury request for information about his conduct or that of his businesses or employees before he took office; (2) that the blanket immunity also extends to any person or entity who happened to be associated with or employed by the President before he took office; and (3) that this blanket immunity also prevents any third party from providing information to the grand jury about such prior conduct or transactions involving the President or his companies or former employees," the filing says.

"[T]he law provides no such sweeping immunity," the prosecutors said.

They also argued that the case should be tossed because it's a state case, not federal, and that the argument by Trump's lawyers that he'd be "irreparably harmed" by the handover is without merit.

Trump, the filing says, is "seeking to invent and enforce a new presidential 'tax return privilege,' on the theory that disclosing information in a tax return will necessarily reveal information that will somehow impede the functioning of a President, sufficiently to meet the test of irreparable harm."

They noted that they want the returns for their investigation, not to make them public.

The scope of the D.A.'s probe is unclear. Prosecutors have asked for 8 years of tax returns, which would pre-date the payments to porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

One of the D.A.'s filings notes that the investigation targets "New York conduct" and has "yet to conclude as to specific charges or defendants." That section is followed by two pages that have been redacted in the public filing.

To date, the filings say the Trump Organization has provided 3376 responsive pages already to the D.A.’s subpoenas and inquiries into the hush money payments, but no tax records.