President Donald Trump has been handed a setback in his efforts to keep his tax returns private.
On Monday, a federal judge sitting in New York City threw out Trump’s claim that he was immune from criminal investigations and did not need to comply with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s subpoena to turn over the past eight years of tax returns to a grand jury.
The DA’s office subpoenaed Mazars USA, the accounting firm used by Trump and the Trump Organization, at the end of August.
Judge Victor Marrero called the presidential immunity Trump invoked in the lawsuit to stop the production of tax documents “unqualified and boundless,” NBC News reported.
According to CNN, because grand jury secrecy rules cover any information obtained through a grand jury subpoena, the president’s tax returns would likely only become public if used in a trial as evidence.
Even so, Vance will not get his hands on the returns quite yet.
The president’s attorneys filed an emergency order of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, CNN reported.
Marrero’s opinion outlined his many objections to the argument proposed by Trump’s lawyers.
“Consider the reach of the President’s argument. 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.
“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,” Marrero wrote in his decision.
“In practice, the implications and actual effects of the President’s categorical rule could be far-reaching. In some circumstances, by raising his protective shield, applicable statutes of limitations could run, barring further investigation and prosecution of serious criminal offenses, thus potentially enabling both the President and any accomplices to escape being brought to justice,” the judge wrote.
Marrero outlined the implications of Trump’s view of impunity prevailing.
“Temporally, such immunity would operate to frustrate the administration of justice by insulating from criminal law scrutiny and judicial review, whether by federal or state courts, not only matters occurring during the President’s tenure in office but potentially also records relating to transactions and illegal actions the President and others may have committed before he assumed the Presidency,” the judge wrote. “The immunity argument would destroy the balance of power designed by the Constitution.”
“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, especially in the light of the fundamental concerns over excessive arrogation of power that animated the Constitution’s delicate structure and its calibrated balance of authority among the three branches of the national government, as well as between the federal and state authorities. Hence, the expansive notion of constitutional immunity invoked here to shield the President from judicial process would constitute an overreach of executive power,” he wrote.
Marrero said presidents, their families and businesses are not above the law, and that presidential immunity is not unlimited.
He stated the legal argument advanced by Trump’s lawyers was “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.”
Trump appeared to be referencing the development with a mid-morning 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!” Trump tweeted.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
The Manhattan DA’s investigation is focused on whether the Trump Organization paid off women who claimed they had affairs with Trump. The president has denied those affairs ever existed.
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