Today a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit from President Trump in which Trump had sought to block a subpoena seeking his income tax returns. In his ruling Judge Victor Marrero also rejected Trump’s argument that a sitting president cannot be subject to criminal investigation/charges while in office, writing, according to The Hill, “This Court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process as being countenanced by the nation’s constitutional plan,” and further asserting that this position on the matter from Trump’s side is “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.”
That subpoena for Trump’s tax returns came from the Manhattan district attorney’s office as part of a New York criminal investigation. 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. The subpoena for the tax returns was sent to Mazars, USA, the accounting firm long used by Trump and the Trump Organization, which Trump also named as a defendant in his now-dismissed lawsuit. After this ruling today Trump’s side filed an emergency appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, which has for now stopped the enforcement of the subpoena for Trump’s tax returns until a panel of appeals court judges reviews the case in an expedited fashion. According to The Hill:
A federal judge on Monday dismissed President Trump’s lawsuit challenging a subpoena from New York prosecutors for his tax returns. Judge Victor Marrero, a district judge in New York appointed by former President Clinton, rejected Trump’s argument that he cannot be subject to the criminal process while in office. …Marrero said that Trump was advancing a position that presidents, their relatives and their businesses are above the law and that aspects of such a position are “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.” …The district attorney’s office had argued that the case (Trump’s lawsuit) should be dismissed and that any legal challenge belongs in state court rather than federal court. The Department of Justice (DOJ) also weighed in, arguing that the case belonged in federal court and that Trump should receive interim relief as needed. In his ruling on Monday, Marrero sided with the district attorney’s office, finding that the federal court should abstain from exercising jurisdiction over Trump’s lawsuit.
As described in the citation above, jurisdictional issues are also involved in Trump’s lawsuit. New York has argued that the matter should stay in state, rather than federal, court, since the prosecutors’ investigation of Trump is at a state level, but Trump has tried to use his frequent ally, the federal Justice Department under Attorney General Barr, to do his bidding and therefore Trump’s side has also sought to get relief from the subpoena through federal channels. Judge Marrero sided with New York on this issue today, indicating that federal courts should refrain from involvement in Trump’s lawsuit.
True to form, President Trump took to Twitter to complain about this ruling and to complain in general about how he is being treated, tweeting, “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!”
We await the appeals court decision to see if New York prosecutors will in fact gain access to Trump’s tax returns and other financial records from Mazars, USA. If they do obtain the tax returns and other records, those would be subject to grand jury secrecy rules, so they would only become available to the public if they became evidence in a criminal case, i.e. if this moves beyond an investigation into charges being brought.