Appeals court appears skeptical of Trump’s latest argument against tax returns subpoena

A panel of appellate court judges on Friday appeared skeptical of President Trump’s latest challenge against Manhattan prosecutors’ grand jury subpoena for his tax returns and other financial records.

Three judges for the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals questioned the argument put forth by the president’s legal team that the Manhattan district attorney’s subpoena is overly broad and should be thrown out.

Judge Pierre Leval seemed unconvinced by their theory that the district attorney’s office should not be allowed to subpoena documents on a broad range of Trump’s business dealings.

“It’s investigating fraud with respect to a tax return filed in New York, by a New York taxpayer,” said Leval, who was appointed by former President Clinton. “It needs to investigate all the documents on which that tax return will be based and there’s no reason why that wouldn’t include business operations outside the county of New York.”

Trump has mounted a new legal challenge to the subpoena following a Supreme Court ruling in July that the president does not have any special immunity to such investigations.

His lawyers are appealing a district court judge’s ruling that rejected the claim that the subpoena is overly broad and was issued in bad faith.

They are arguing that the subpoena goes far beyond what had been reported to be the scope of the investigation, namely hush money payments in 2016 to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

“If you were to look up the definition of a fishing expedition, this is it,” William Consovoy, Trump’s personal attorney, told the court. “The district attorney isn’t focused on anything.”

The prosecutor’s office, led by District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. (D), has countered that they have never suggested that the investigation was limited to the payments, which were delivered by Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who is serving a three-year prison sentence for his role in the scheme.

And last month, the prosecutors hinted at a much broader probe into “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.”

At Friday’s hearing, Judge Raymond Lohier, an Obama appointee, questioned why the court should dictate what the grand jury could and couldn’t investigate.

“I think that’s a natural conclusion that every grand jury investigation, particularly of this importance, will start to grow, both in terms of the nature of the possible charges that the grand jury is investigating, and in terms of the documents, and witnesses and so on, that may be of interest to the grand jury,” Lohier said. “And given that, why should we require a specific allegation that this is the one grand jury investigation that’s unique, in that it’s stuck, it did not expand beyond the 2016 Cohen payments.”

It’s unclear when the circuit court panel will rule on the latest round of the yearlong court battle. If Vance’s office again prevails it is unlikely that the president’s financial records will be made public anytime soon given New York’s strict grand jury secrecy rules.

Tags Donald Trump Michael Cohen New York trump tax returns

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