And now a plot twist: with Trump under relentless attack for the past three years to disclose his tax returns, on Thursday morning the president struck back, suing Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance to block an attempt by New York state prosecutors to obtain eight years of the president’s tax returns in a probe of whether the Trump Organization falsified business records.
“In response to the subpoenas issued by the New York County District Attorney, we have filed a lawsuit this morning in federal court on behalf of the President in order to address the significant constitutional issues at stake in this case,” Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement, according to Bloomberg.
The subpoena was issued by the Manhattan DA’s office last month following the launch of a criminal investigation into hush-money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels (real name Stephanie Clifford) by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen – who pleaded guilty last year to eight charges; seven of which were unrelated to the Trump campaign, and one for breaking federal campaign finance laws. He is currently serving a three-year prison sentence.
Vance’s office wants to determine whether Trump’s accounting firm falsely accounted for Cohen’s reimbursements as a legal expense.
In New York, filing a false business record can be a crime.
But it becomes a felony only if prosecutors can prove that the false filing was made to commit or conceal another crime, such as tax violations or bank fraud. The tax returns and other documents sought from Mazars could shed light on whether any state laws were broken. Such subpoenas also routinely request related documents in connection with the returns. –New York Times
In July, Trump sued House Democrats, along with New York AG Letitia James and NY tax commissioner Michael Schmidt in an effort to block them from releasing his tax returns.
In June, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the TRUST Act – which permits tax officials to turn over Trump’s state tax returns to any or all of t hree congressional committees. In his July lawsuit, Trup alleged that the House Ways and Means Committee’s invocation of the Trust act would “lack a legitimate legislative purpose,” adding that the law violates the First Amendment since the state of New York “enacted it to discriminate and retaliate against President Trump for his speech and politics.”
That said, while Trump and the Treasury Department have proven thus far successful in thwarting Democratic lawmakers’ inquiries, it may not be as easy to fend off a subpoena in Manhattan.
According to Trump’s accounting firm Mazars, they will “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations,” adding that the company was legally prohibited from commenting on its work.
If the Manhattan DA is able to obtain Trump’s tax returns, the Times notes that “the documents would be covered by secrecy rules governing grand juries, meaning they would not become public unless they were used as evidence in a criminal case.”