By Lawrence Hurley
Donald Trump suffered a major setback on Monday in his long quest to conceal details of his finances as the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain the former president’s tax returns and other records as part of an accelerating criminal investigation.
The justices without comment rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the Republican businessman-turned-politician’s longtime 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,” Vance said in a statement issued after the court’s action.
Vance had previously said in a letter to Trump’s lawyers that his office would be free to immediately enforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump’s request.
A Mazars spokesman said the company was aware of the court’s action and “remains committed to fulfilling all of our professional and legal obligations.” A lawyer for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Supreme Court’s action, coming soon after Vance’s hiring of a prominent lawyer with deep experience in white-collar and organized-crime cases, could boost the district attorney’s investigation into Trump’s family real-estate company, the Trump Organization, following a flurry of recent subpoenas.
Reuters reported on Friday that Vance’s office had subpoenaed a New York City property tax agency as part of the investigation, suggesting prosecutors are examining Trump’s efforts to reduce his commercial real-estate taxes for possible evidence of fraud.
The Supreme Court, which has a 6-3 conservative majority included three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the subpoena dispute, last July rejecting Trump’s broad argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.
Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused during his four years in office to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the Trump Organization’s activities.
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 personal and business conduct.
Vance issued a subpoena to Mazars in 2019 seeking Trump’s corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump’s lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that as a sitting president, Trump had absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.
The Supreme Court in its July ruling rejected those arguments but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers then argued before lower courts that the subpoena was overly broad and amounted to political harassment. U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in October rejected those claims.
Vance’s investigation initially focused on hush money payments that the then-president’s former lawyer and fixer 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 Trump.
In recent court filings, Vance has suggested that the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.
“The Supreme Court has now proclaimed that no one is above the law. Trump will, for the first time, have to take responsibility for his own dirty deeds,” Cohen said in a statement issued after the Supreme Court acted.
The court on Monday separately turned away Daniels’ bid to revive her defamation lawsuit against Trump.
In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives is seeking similar records from Mazars and Deutsche Bank.