Judge rejects Trump challenge to release of his tax returns

Monday, October 7, 2019

NEW YORK (AP) — A federal judge Monday emphatically rejected President Donald Trump’s challenge to the release of his tax returns to New York prosecutors, saying the president’s broad claim of immunity from all criminal investigations is at odds with the Constitution. But an appeals court blocked any handover of the records for now.

At issue is a request from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. that Trump’s accounting firm turn over eight years’ worth of his business and personal tax returns for an investigation into the payment of hush money to two women who claimed to have had affairs with the president.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero turned down Trump’s attempt to keep the records under wraps. The president’s lawyers immediately appealed to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which granted a stay of the judge’s ruling pending an expedited review.

“The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts,” Trump fumed on Twitter, “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!”

The criminal investigation in New York is unfolding with Trump already under siege on Capitol Hill from a fast-moving impeachment drive set off by his attempts to get Ukraine’s leader to investigate his political rival Joe Biden. The judge’s ruling marked the latest in a string of setbacks for the president in the past couple of weeks.

Trump’s lawyers have said that the investigation led by Vance, a Democrat, is politically motivated and that the request for his tax records should be stopped because he is immune from any criminal probe as long as he is president.

But the judge called Trump’s claim of broad immunity “extraordinary” and “an overreach of executive power.”

“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,” Marrero wrote. “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.”

The judge said he couldn’t accept that legal view, “especially in the light of the fundamental concerns over excessive arrogation of power” that led the founding fathers to create a balance of power among the three branches of government.

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