Federal appeals court rules Manhattan attorney can enforce subpoena seeking Trump’s tax records


After a year-long court battle to keep President Trump’s tax records out of the hands of state prosecutors, a federal appeals panel ruled Wednesday that the Manhattan District Attorney can enforce a subpoena seeking personal and corporate tax returns from President Trump.

This legal battle began in August of 2019, the latest turn being a unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel in New York. This ruling rejected the president’s argument that the subpoena should be blocked for political harassment from the Manhattan DA, Cyrus R. Vance Jr. The panel was composed of judges Pierre Leval, Robert Katzman, and Raymond Lohier, appointed by Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama onto the Second Circuit. The judges came to the conclusion that Mr. Vance, a Democrat, had not been driven by partisanship. “We have considered all of the president’s remaining contentions on appeal and have found in them no basis for reversal,” wrote the judges.

In July, The Supreme Court rejected President Trump’s claim that as president, he has immunity from state grand jury investigations. The appeals court delayed the enforcement of the subpoena by Mr. Vance, allowing time for the president to appeal to the supreme court for a second time. Should the Supreme Court step in, it could permanently block the subpoena. 

The purpose of Vance’s subpoena, according to UPI, could be to look into accusations that Michael Cohen, former Trump attorney, made “hush money payments” to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election on behalf of President Trump. Vance since indicated that the investigation is considering possible charges of insurance, bank, and tax fraud. Up until the election of Donald Trump, every president since Jimmy Carter has disclosed their tax returns to the public (NPR).

On September 27, 2020, The New York Times released a report on taxes paid by President Trump over the course of 15 years. The Times found that Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency, as well as no income taxes at all throughout 10 of the past 15 years. This report by The Times is based on tax returns provided by an unidentified source, meaning that the subpoena may provide more credible evidence that Trump deliberately attempted to evade taxes. The president has made claims over several years that he is unable to release his tax returns because he is continuously being audited, and has also made claims that he paid millions of dollars in taxes the year he won the presidency. “I will absolutely give my return, but I’m being audited now for two or three years, so I can’t do it until the audit is finished, obviously,” said Trump in February of 2016. Trump has echoed this statement multiple times over the course of his presidency. According to IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig at a House Appropriations Subcommittee in August of 2019, there is no rule prohibiting a taxpayer from releasing a tax return under audit. 



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