Trump can't block tax subpoena: Circuit court

October 7, 2020, 12:23 PM

A federal appeals court in New York ruled Wednesday President Donald Trump cannot block enforcement of a subpoena for his tax returns issued by the Manhattan District Attorney's office.

A three-judge panel of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said President Trump's arguments "amount to generic objections" and not the kind of "well-pled facts" necessary to sustain his allegations the subpoena is overbroad and issued in bad faith.

The appellate panel said the subpoena sought "run-of-the-mill" documents that would be typical for any investigation into possible financial or corporate misconduct.

The president's legal team has already signaled its intention to bring the case back to the Supreme Court, according to a letter filed with the court. The Manhattan DA's office agreed to delay enforcement of the subpoena until the Supreme Court decides whether to issue a stay.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump stands on the balcony outside of the Blue Room as returns to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020.
President Donald Trump stands on the balcony outside of the Blue Room as returns to the White House Monday, Oct. 5, 2020.
Alex Brandon/AP

The president's side argued it was inappropriate for the DA to ask for 8 years' worth of tax returns because the investigation is limited to Michael Cohen's hush payments to women who alleged affairs.

The appellate court rejected the president's interpretation of the investigation's scope.

"The President, in his briefs, asks us to infer that, because the Cohen payments were a focus of the investigation, they must have been the only focus. We decline to take such a leap," the judges said.

The court also rejected the president's claim the subpoena, issued to the president's accounting firm, Mazars USA, amounted to a "fishing expedition" because it sought the same materials as prior Congressional subpoenas.

"There is no logic to the proposition that the documents sought in the Mazars subpoena are irrelevant to legitimate state law enforcement purposes simply because a Congressional committee considered the same documents relevant to its own investigative purposes," the judges wrote.

The president's attempt to argue the subpoena was issued in bad faith met the same fate.

"We hold that none of the President's allegations, taken together or separately, are sufficient to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued 'out of malice or an intent to harass,'" the decision said.

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