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Trump attorneys ask Supreme Court for stay in Manhattan DA's tax case

The president’s attorneys argue that the DA’s subpoena for his tax documents is 'overbroad' and lacks 'good faith,' an argument rejected by an appeals court.
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Sanford, Fla., on Oct. 12, 2020.Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images

Attorneys for President Donald Trump have asked the Supreme Court for an emergency application to stay — or put on hold — the recent decision by an appeals court to let Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance get Trump’s tax documents pursuant to a grand jury subpoena.

Trump’s attorneys are asking for the stay pending the filing of a writ of certiorari by the president asking the Supreme Court to review the appeals court decision on the grounds that the Manhattan DA’s subpoena is “overbroad” and lacks a “good faith basis,” two arguments the appeals court didn’t buy.

The president’s lawyers argued for a stay because they believe there is an “intensely factual” basis for the Supreme Court to eventually overturn the appeals court decision.

Specifically, they argue, “a demand for virtually every financial record of a global corporation and its owner is of course plausibly overbroad if the grand jury is focused on certain payments made in 2016.” The Second Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the Manhattan DA’s office that it was clear that the investigation wasn’t focused just on hush money payments made by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in 2016 as the president’s legal team has asserted.

Secondly, the president’s legal team argued, “the subpoena was plausibly issued in bad faith if the District Attorney copied a congressional subpoena with no good-faith effort to properly tailor it to his investigative needs.”

They added “even if the President’s allegations about the scope of the grand jury’s investigation could be rejected at this stage, the President still plausibly alleges overbreadth and bad faith, given the subpoena’s limitless reach and the District Attorney’s shifting rationales for issuing it.”

Trump’s attorneys say that the case should be stayed pending the filing and disposition of the president’s petition for a writ, or the Supreme Court could just treat the request for the stay as a petition for the writ, grant it, and overturn the appeals court decision.

If the Supreme Court denies the stay it is possible that Vance could enforce the subpoena and get a copy of the requested documents before Election Day but still outside of public view.

Vance is seeking eight years of tax returns for a grand jury investigation of hush money payments and other financial transactions. The investigation began after it was disclosed that Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep quiet about her claim that she had an affair with Trump, an allegation he has denied. Cohen also told Congress that the Trump organization sometimes lied about its financial condition in order to evade taxes or obtain favorable loan terms.

In July, the Supreme Court rejected Trump’s contention that a sitting president is immune from any part of the criminal justice system, including grand jury investigations. But its decision said Trump could make the same arguments that anyone can in trying to defeat the subpoena.

In August a federal district court judge in New York ruled against Trump's renewed effort to get the subpoena tossed out, describing the legal attack as merely a repackaged version of his original immunity argument.

Because of grand jury secrecy, Vance has not revealed exactly what his office is investigating. But he hinted at the scope of his work in recent court filings.

“The investigation concerns a variety of business transactions and is based on information derived from public sources, confidential informants, and the grand jury process” and could include falsifying business records, insurance fraud, and tax fraud, the filings said.