Trump, New York prosecutors to square off in appeals court over tax returns

In a photo taken on Oct 17, 2019, US President Donald Trump speaks during a "Keep America Great" rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
In a photo taken on Oct 17, 2019, US President Donald Trump speaks during a "Keep America Great" rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Lawyers for US President Donald Trump and New York state prosecutors trying to obtain Trump's tax returns are set to face off in a federal appeals court on Wednesday (Oct 23).

The case, which will be argued before the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, is one of several legal battles in which the Republican president is seeking to shield his personal finances from scrutiny.

In August, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, subpoenaed Mr Trump's personal and corporate tax returns from 2011 to 2018 and other records from the president's long-time accounting firm Mazars USA.

The subpoena was part of a criminal probe into Mr Trump and his family business. The scope of that probe is not publicly known.

Mr Trump sued Mr Vance's office in Manhattan federal court to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, he cannot be subject to criminal investigation.

US District Judge Victor Marrero on Oct 7 threw out Trump's lawsuit, calling his claim that he was immune from investigation "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values".

Mr Vance's investigation comes amid an impeachment inquiry and investigations into Mr Trump's finances by Democrats in the US House of Representatives.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court in Washington backed an effort by a House Oversight Committee to obtain Mr Trump's financial records from Mazars.

The 2nd Circuit has put Marrero's Oct 7 order on hold until it considers the case. Mr Vance's office has agreed not to enforce its subpoena for 10 days if the court rules in its favour, to give Mr Trump time to appeal to the US Supreme Court.

 
 

The US Department of Justice has weighed in on the case, arguing that Mr Vance must make a "heightened and particularised showing" that he needs the documents for his investigation.

Though the Department stopped short of saying Mr Vance could not get the returns under any circumstances, it said it was"unlikely" he could demonstrate an immediate need for them because the US Constitution bars states from prosecuting a sitting president.

Two other House committees are seeking to obtain Trump's financial records from Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Corp. The 2nd Circuit is currently considering a lawsuit by Mr Trump to block them from getting those records, which do not include his tax returns.

The House impeachment inquiry focuses on the president's request in a July phone call for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Democratic former vice-president Joe Biden, a top contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.