The Slatest

Supreme Court Allows Trump Tax Subpoena to Go Forward, Opening Door for Criminal Probe

Michael Cohen, President Trump's former attorney arrives at his Park Avenue home after being released from federal prison on July 24, 2020 in New York City.
A possible witness for the prosecution. Jeenah Moon/Getty Images

On Monday, the Supreme Court finally cleared the way for a criminal probe into Donald J. Trump’s taxes to move forward, rejecting a last-ditch appeal from the former president in a terse one-line order with no noted dissents.

In 2019, Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance sought to subpoena eight years of Trump’s tax returns from his former accounting firm, Mazars USA, as part of a probe into hush money payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal—two women who claimed to have sexual relationships with Trump—during the 2016 presidential election that landed former Trump fixer Michael Cohen in prison.

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The case has stretched on since the Supreme Court ruled last year that Trump did not have absolute immunity from state investigations as president but punted on the question of whether Trump had other grounds to try to block the subpoenas.

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After that Supreme Court ruling, the case went back to a federal district judge. Vance’s office then confirmed in a legal filing that its investigation had expanded beyond the hush money payments to possible insurance fraud and bank fraud by the Trump organization and its officers. The district judge ruled in August that Trump’s follow-up request to block the subpoena was still essentially seeking presidential immunity and he rejected it. A three-member panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit upheld the lower court ruling in October during the heat of the presidential election, but the Supreme Court delayed ruling on Trump’s records until after he left office.

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Mazars USA, Trump’s former accounting firm, has said it would follow whatever the court ultimately decided, which presumably means it will now cooperate with Vance’s office. According to the New York Times, prosecutors in that office will now get “tax records and financial statements since 2011, the engagement agreements with the accountants who prepared them, the underlying raw financial data and information about how the data were analyzed.”

The former president is facing a lengthy list of legal woes that includes: a Fulton County criminal probe into Trump’s attempts to interfere with Georgia election officials after he lost the state to President Joe Biden; a defamation lawsuit by E. Jean Carroll over Trump’s response to her allegation that he raped her; a separate defamation lawsuit by former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos over his response to her claim that he sexually assaulted her; a lawsuit from Rep. Bennie Thompson and the NAACP over Trump’s role in the Jan. 6 insurrection and any potential civil and criminal liability Trump might have for his role in allegedly inciting that riot.

And that list is likely still growing. On Monday, during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse asked Biden attorney general nominee Merrick Garland if he would “not rule out investigation of funders, organizers, ringleaders, or aiders and abettors who were not present in the Capitol on Jan. 6.” Garland responded that were he to be confirmed, his Department of Justice would “pursue these leads wherever they take us.”

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