A federal judge on Thursday threw out a lawsuit by Donald Trump that argued the president should not have to comply with a subpoena by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance for his financial records, including tax returns.
The Supreme Court last month rejected Trump’s argument that prosecutors could not order his accounting firm Mazars to hand over his records. Trump’s lawyers argued that he enjoys absolute immunity from criminal scrutiny, as well as congressional oversight, while in office. In an appeals court ruling last fall, Trump’s lawyers said that even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue, he would be immune from not only prosecution but investigation by federal or local authorities.
The Supreme Court’s decision allowed Trump to contest Vance’s subpoena on other grounds. On Thursday US District Judge Victor Marrero ruled that Trump’s new arguments—that Vance’s subpoena is “overbroad and issued in bad faith”—is “at its core” the same claim judges have already rejected.
“It amounts to absolute immunity through a back door, an entry point through which not only a President but also potentially other persons and entities, public and private, could effectively gain cover from judicial process,” Marrero wrote.
Marrero said Trump’s litigation strategy, if successful, would have dire national consequences. It “could impact the constitutional order and justice system all the more adversely precisely because the expedient emanates from the President than it would when an ordinary citizen pursues similar practices,” the judge wrote.
Vance’s office disclosed last month that it is investigating Trump and his company for “bank and insurance fraud.” Vance has also subpoenaed Trump’s longtime lender, Deutsche Bank, for financial records Trump and his company provided when he sought loans, the New York Times reported. Deutsche Bank complied.
Thursday’s ruling is another stinging legal defeat for Trump, but it doesn’t mean Americans will get to see Trump taxes anytime soon. Trump’s lawyers filed an emergency notice of appeal shortly after Thursday’s ruling and requested an order blocking Mazars from complying with a subpoena pending the appeal. That action may delay resolution of the case until after November’s election. And even if Vance does eventually get Trump’s taxes, grand jury rules prevent their public release.