Prosecutors in the Manhattan district attorney’s office have subpoenaed eight years of Donald Trump’s personal and business tax returns as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. While this news was first reported today by The New York Times, it was actually late last month that the relevant subpoenas were sent to Mazars, USA, the accounting firm long used by Trump and the Trump Organization. The request for tax returns for tax years 2011 through 2018 relates, at least in part, to an investigation of hush money payments made to Stephanie Clifford, aka Stormy Daniels, who allegedly had an affair with Trump.
This is the last chapter in the ongoing saga of various interests attempting to gain access to Trump’s tax returns. Trump broke the several decades long precedent of presidents giving public access to their tax returns and has fought all attempts to access them. Trump has claimed that he has been under IRS audit, which he says prevents him from making the returns public. The IRS, on the other hand, has indicated that audits do not prevent a person from disclosing their own tax information. Trump also has not produced any evidence to support that he actually is under audit. This latest attempt to gain access to Trump’s returns gives both good news and bad news to those who would like to see Trump’s taxes appear in the light of day. The good news in that regard is that since the subpoenas relate to a criminal investigation, it will be more difficult for Trump’s side to refuse to comply. The bad news is that since the subpoenas came from a grand jury, the tax returns, if provided, would not be made public, unless they end up actually being used as evidence in a criminal case. According to The Hill:
State prosecutors from the Manhattan district attorney’s office sent subpoenas late last month to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, in an attempt to obtain eight years of the president’s personal and business tax filings as part of a broader effort to analyze his financial records, The New York Times reported Monday. …It could be challenging for Trump to try to block a subpoena in this instance because it’s part of a criminal investigation with a sitting grand jury, the Times reported, while noting that the Trump Organization could attempt to negotiate with the district attorney’s office to limit the scope of the subpoena. If the Manhattan district attorney’s office is able to obtain Trump’s tax returns, the documents would be subject to grand-jury secrecy rules and wouldn’t be made public unless they were evidence in a criminal case, according to the Times.
In April the House Oversight Committee also subpoenaed Mazars, USA, for Trump’s financial records, a request which Trump is fighting in court. The House Ways and Means Committee has sought six years of Trump’s federal income tax returns, but the Treasury Department and IRS have failed to comply their requests and subpoenas, leading the committee in July to sue to obtain the records. The House Financial Services and Intelligence Committee has also subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for financial records and tax returns related to Trump, the Trump Organization, and Trump’s three oldest children; last month, per The Hill, Deutsche Bank indicated that it is in possession of tax returns relevant to the requests, but it is not known publicly which of the requested returns the bank meant, nor does it as yet appear that the bank has turned over the information it does have to the committee.
We shall have to see if Trump’s strategy of stonewalling, delaying, and outright refusal to comply with subpoenas is how Trump’s side again responds to this latest effort in New York to obtain Trump’s tax returns, and whether that strategy ultimately proves successful or not.