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Trump to press battle over tax returns after Supreme Court defeat, lawyers say

President Trump at a briefing in the Oval Office on Wednesday.
President Trump at a briefing in the Oval Office on Wednesday. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)
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NEW YORK — President Trump intends to fight the Manhattan district attorney's effort to access his tax records after last week's defeat at the Supreme Court, and may argue now that attempts to subpoena his accounting firm are politically motivated, Trump's lawyers told a judge on Wednesday.

The nation’s highest court rejected Trump’s bid to have the grand jury subpoena tossed on grounds that, as sitting president, he has absolute immunity from state court proceedings. The Supreme Court decision favored efforts by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., whose office is investigating Trump and his business over hush-money payments made to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Read the filing: Donald J Trump v. Cyrus Vance Jr. and Mazars USA

Lawyers for Vance’s office, which faces a looming statute-of-limitations deadline should he decide to pursue a felony case, said in Wednesday’s joint filing that the district attorney could enforce the subpoena immediately but would give the president until July 27 to file his new claims before doing so. The DA’s office “will continue to forbear on execution of the Mazars subpoena pending the orderly resolution” of Trump’s new claims, as long as the litigation “moves on an expedited basis,” they wrote, referring to the accounting firm Mazars USA.

Supreme Court says Manhattan prosecutor may pursue Trump’s financial records, denies Congress access for now

The Supreme Court, in its 7-to-2 decision, left open a door for Trump to pursue other avenues in his attempt to kill the subpoena. Trump’s lawyers indicated Wednesday in the memo to U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero that “further proceedings are necessary” and that an amended lawsuit seeking to block the subpoena would be filed soon.

Marrero, who initially handled the lawsuit, had ordered both parties to detail whether litigation would continue. As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Trump is barred only from bringing up the presidential immunity issue, which is now considered settled. He could argue instead that Vance’s request to Mazars is too broad, amounting to a “fishing expedition,” or that it was issued in “bad faith” with an ulterior motive, the filing says, citing the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Meet the Manhattan district attorney battling with President Trump in court

Vance is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records to conceal the hush-money payments. The women involved — pornographic-film actress Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal — alleged before the 2016 election that they had had affairs with Trump. The president has denied the allegations.

Wednesday’s filing hints that there could be a battle over whether Vance should have to disclose more information about his work. “The President should not be required, for example, to litigate the subpoena’s breadth or whether it was issued in bad faith without understanding the nature and scope of the investigation and why the District Attorney needs all of the documents he has demanded,” Trump’s lawyer William Consovoy wrote.

Carey Dunne, the district attorney’s general counsel, said that even if the president’s new civil complaint survives a dismissal motion, “discovery into the District Attorney’s motives would be highly irregular and inappropriate.”

Trump is also seeking to delay new proceedings on technical grounds, arguing that the Supreme Court has not formally sent the case back to the Southern District of New York. Under federal guidelines, it typically takes 25 days for a case to be transferred.

The DA’s office argued in an application sent to the Supreme Court on Wednesday that it was necessary to accelerate the next steps, asking it to transfer the case to the lower courts immediately. The grand jury has already seen “extraordinary delays” in its access to the subpoena materials and that “given the age of many of the transactions at issue . . . issues could arise in the near future concerning the applicable statute of limitations,” Dunne wrote.

“Each day that compliance with the Mazars [subpoena] is delayed increases the likelihood that the grand jury will not receive the documents it sought 10 months ago . . . potentially giving [Trump] the absolute temporary immunity” rejected by the Supreme Court, Dunne said.

Marrero has scheduled a conference with both sides’ lawyers for Thursday morning.

Separately, congressional Democrats are going ahead with their efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns and other personal financial information after the Supreme Court, in conjunction with its ruling in the Vance case, ordered a hold on the subpoenas issued by House lawmakers. Those cases were sent back to the lower courts for further examination, and House lawyers this week requested an expedited transfer.