A lawyer for President Donald Trump on Wednesday argued to a federal appeals court that a subpoena for information to Trump’s accountants — including a demand for his personal and corporate tax returns — issued by a grand jury at the behest of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is “an inappropriate fishing expedition.”
The lawyer, William Consovoy, under questioning by a three-judge panel at the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan, said, “We are objecting to the entire subpoena.”
Some information sought by the subpoena to Mazars USA had been turned over before Trump and his company. But eight years of tax returns that the DA wants have not turned over.
Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. is known to be investigating how the Trump Organization accounted for hush money payments made by Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen and the publisher of The National Enquirer to two women who claim they had sexual trysts with Trump.
Trump denies having sex with either woman, porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.
A federal judge in U.S. District Court in Manhattan previously denied Trump’s effort to toss out the subpoena, which was issued by a grand jury in state court in Manhattan.
Trump now is appealing that decision.
Consovoy argued during 50-minute-long hearing that Trump cannot be criminally investigated by any law enforcement organization while in office, which is a much broader claim than previous statements in internal Justice Department memos that a sitting president cannot be criminally charged by a federal prosecutor while still in office.
“The district attorney … has declined to say the president is not a target,” Consovoy noted in the Manhattan courtroom.
And Consovoy said that “we believe there is evidence” that the subpoena is designed to embarass Trump.
Carey Dunne, general counsel for the DA’s office, said, “We would dispute there is an absolute blanket immunity” for the president when it comes to criminal investigation.
Dunne also dismissed the idea that the president’s tax returns are barred from being released to a law enforcement agency conducting a criminal investigation.
“They’re making this up, your honor,” Dunne said of the argument by Trump’s lawyers to that effect.
“We should get these materials,” Dunne said.
It is not clear when the Second Circuit appellate panel will rule on Trump’s bid to quash the subpoena.
But when the panel does rule, the losing side is certain to ask the United States Supreme Court to overturn the decision.
Chief Judge Robert Katzmann said, “This case seems bound for the Supreme Court.”
Dunne replied, “I think both sides see this as an inevitability, your honor.”