Trump sues to try to stop tax returns from being sent to NY prosecutor


President Donald Trump.

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President Donald Trump is suing his long-time accounting firm Mazars USA and New York district attorney Cyrus Vance to attempt to stop his accounting records and tax returns from being sent to the local prosecutor.

The suit is the boldest broadside yet against any local or state prosecutors who may want to investigate Trump while he serves in the White House. For the first time, Trump’s private legal team pushes an argument into federal court that the President should be immune from criminal investigation while in office.

“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.

In this case, Trump is asking a federal judge to bar Vance and Mazars from making any moves to fulfill or enforce the subpoena until Trump has left office.

Vance subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s tax returns from Mazars, which had done accounting for both Trump and the Trump Organization, as part of an investigation into hush money payments, CNN reported on Monday.

The subpoena, sent August 29, asked the accounting firm for tax returns, other financial statements and communications related to several Trump companies, the Trump Foundation, the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust and Trump himself.

Vance also in early August used a grand jury in New York to subpoena Trump’s business for records related to him. That subpoena asked the company for documents and communications about Michael Cohen, the tabloid publisher American Media Inc and two women, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, from 2015 to September 2018, according to Thursday’s lawsuit. The two women alleged affairs with Trump, which he has denied, and the grand jury was looking into Trump Organization accounting of reimbursements for hush money payments related to the women’s accusations.

Trump’s lawsuit says Vance’s actions are politically motivated to “harass” him and hurt the President during his reelection campaign, and it says Vance’s subpoenas are unconstitutional because they’re part of an attempt to investigate a sitting President.

“Virtually ‘all legal commenters agree’ that a sitting President of the United States is not ‘subject to the criminal process’ while he is in office,” his attorneys write at the start of the complaint, citing a legal memo and a Yale law review article. “Yet a county prosecutor in New York, for what appears to be the first time in our nation’s history, is attempting to do just that.”

Trump’s team, however, acknowledges that “no court has had to squarely consider the question” of whether a sitting President can be criminally prosecuted or investigated.

The topic was a significant question during the Mueller investigation — since the special counsel investigated whether the President obstructed justice by attempting to thwart the Russia investigation. But the topic never ended up in court, after Mueller acknowledged a Justice Department policy that said a sitting President couldn’t be charged with a federal crime, and Mueller left the prosecution decision up to Justice Department leadership. The Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General declined to bring a case. The President was also never subpoenaed in that investigation.

The Vance subpoena case joins about a half dozen other ongoing federal lawsuits where Trump’s political critics seek his tax returns or other financial records and Trump is trying to stop them.

In some ways, the Vance subpoena matter mirrors another court fight over whether Trump’s accountants must respond to subpoenas for Trump’s financial records earlier this year. In that case, Trump sued a US House committee and Mazars after the committee subpoenaed eight years of accounting records earlier this spring. Trump lost before a trial court in that case but is now waiting for a decision from the federal appeals court in Washington. Congress has so far successfully argued it can pursue subpoenas like those related to Trump, but Trump’s lawyers claim the House has no valid legislative reason to collect the information.

In this and other cases, House Democrats and Vance have yet to obtain Trump’s financial records.

Vance subpoenaed eight years of Trump’s tax returns from Mazars, which had done accounting for both Trump and the Trump Organization, as part of an investigation into hush money payments, CNN reported on Monday.

In response to both the House and the Vance subpoenas, Mazars has said it would comply with legal obligations it has.

“Mazars USA will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations. We believe strongly in the ethical and professional rules and regulations that govern our industry, our work and our client interactions. As a matter of firm policy and professional rules we do not comment on the work we conduct for our clients,” the firm said in a statement.

Trump is represented by private lawyers in the suit — and not the Justice Department.

The case will be heard at different stages by federal District Judge Victor Marrero, a Clinton appointee, and magistrate judge Katharine Parker.

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