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Judge throws out Trump challenge to Manhattan DA subpoena for tax records

U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for a news conference in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 19, 2020.

Tom Brenner | Reuters

President Donald Trump’s effort to fight a subpoena for his tax records issued by the Manhattan district attorney was rejected on Thursday by a federal judge in New York, handing another loss to the president in a high-profile case that has already made its way to the Supreme Court. 

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero said that the president failed to show that the subpoena would pose an unfair burden, siding in favor of Manhattan D.A. Cy Vance, Jr., who has said his office is pursuing an investigation of potential violations of state law. Trump is likely to appeal the decision to a higher court. 

The subpoena, directed to the president’s longtime accounting firm Mazars USA, seeks the president’s personal and business records, including tax returns, dating to 2011.

The ruling comes a month after the Supreme Court rejected the president’s earlier claims of absolute immunity from state criminal subpoenas. While the top court rejected the immunity argument, it said the president was entitled to object to the subpoena on alternative grounds. 

Following the Supreme Court ruling, the president argued that the subpoena was overly broad and politically motivated. But Marrero said that those objections were essentially the same as the earlier immunity arguments. 

Marrero wrote that he could not “mechanically credit” the president’s new arguments, likening them to “absolute immunity through a back door.”

Marrero dismissed the case with prejudice, effectively preventing the president from bringing new arguments to the court for why the subpoena should not be enforced. An attorney for the president did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Vance has been relatively opaque about the subject of his investigation. His office is known to be investigating hush money payments to the porn actress Stormy Daniels made on the president’s behalf by his former lawyer Michael Cohen in the run-up to the 2016 election. Daniels has said she had sex with the president, but Trump has denied the affair.

More clues emerged in a filing earlier in August, in which Vance suggested he could also be pursuing an inquiry into potential bank and insurance fraud. Vance’s office declined to comment on Thursday’s ruling. 

Trump has vigorously opposed calls for him to disclose his tax returns, breaking with the practice followed by all modern candidates for president. Trump is up for reelection against Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden in November. 

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