President Donald Trump is facing an escalating impeachment inquiry and a furor over his latest decision in Syria, but news networks zeroed in on a surprise twist in another story: His taxes.
A federal judge on Monday ruled against Trump’s effort to prevent eight years of his tax returns from being turned over to a New York grand jury. But Trump’s attorneys quickly secured a temporary stay of the ruling from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, something that his legal team treated as a victory.
The federal court decision does increase the chance that Trump’s accounting firm will have to turn over his tax returns as part of an investigation into whether the Trump organization violated state laws. New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. sent Trump’s accounting firm a grand jury subpoena seeking Trump’s returns as far back as 2011.
Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s attorneys, said on his radio show that “what the New York D.A. was trying to do was a fishing expedition. The [appellate] court said, ‘Wait a minute. These are really important issues raised in this case.”
Sekulow said that he planned to appear on “Hannity” on Fox News and Chris Cuomo’s CNN show on Monday night.
Until Trump’s team obtained a stay, it looked as if the president’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, would have to turn over the tax returns by 1 p.m. ET on Monday.
In his 75-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero called Trump’s claim of immunity “extraordinary.”
“As the Court reads it, presidential immunity would stretch to cover every phase of criminal proceedings, including investigations, grand jury proceedings and subpoenas, indictment, prosecution, arrest, trial, conviction, and incarceration,” he wrote. “That constitutional protection presumably would encompass any conduct, at any time, in any forum, whether federal or state, and whether the President acted alone or in concert with other individuals.”
Trump reacted to the ruling in a tweet. “The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump. A thing like this has never happened to any President before. Not even close!”
Prosecutors are looking into whether any state laws were violated in Trump Organization reimbursement payments to Michael Cohen, Trump’s former personal lawyer. In the lead up to the 2016 election, Cohen paid some of the hush money to Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who claims she had sexual relations with Trump in 2006.
Even if the returns are eventially turned over to the grand jury, it does not necessarily mean that they will be made public, as investigative materials typically are sealed. But portions of the returns could be revealed if a case is brought against the Trump Organization.
A three-judge panel of the 2nd Circuit will now review the case.