Supreme Court allows release of Trump's tax returns

Ex-US president's attempt to conceal financial details fails as ruling paves way for probe

WASHINGTON • The United States Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain Mr Donald Trump's tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to the former Republican president's quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices rebuffed Mr Trump's request to put on hold an Oct 7 lower court ruling directing his long-time accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.

"The work continues," Mr Vance said in a statement issued after the court's action.

He previously said in a letter to Mr Trump's lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Mr Trump's request.

A lawyer for Mr Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Unlike all other recent US presidents, Mr Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public.

The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company Trump Organisation.

Mr Trump, who left office on Jan 20 after being defeated in his Nov 3 re-election bid by Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning his personal and business conduct.

Mr Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in August 2019 seeking Mr Trump's corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018.

Mr Trump's lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, he had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

In its ruling last July, the Supreme Court - which has a 6-3 conservative majority including three Trump appointees - rejected those broad arguments but said Mr Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena.

His lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment. But US District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Mr Vance's investigation, which began over two years ago, focused on hush money payments that Mr Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen made before the 2016 election to two women - adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal - who said they had sexual encounters with the former president.

In recent court filings, Mr Vance suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as false business records.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led US House of Representatives was seeking to subpoena similar records. The Supreme Court last July sent that matter back to the lower courts for further review.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2021, with the headline 'Supreme Court allows release of Trump's tax returns'. Subscribe