Trump tax returns: Supreme Court temporarily blocks release of financial documents

Both sides must now file necessary paperwork by Thursday afternoon, as court determines whether to take up case

Clark Mindock
New York
Monday 18 November 2019 19:11
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Donald Trump brags about not paying taxes: 'That makes me smart'

The Supreme Court has temporarily stopped a lower court order requiring Donald Trump to turn over his tax returns to House Democrats as a part of their impeachment probe, giving the high court time to decide whether to hear the president's challenge to the ruling.

The decision was announced on Monday, with chief justice John G Roberts writing that they had granted the Trump administration's request for a stay on the federal appeals court ruling until "further order".

Before this ruling, the president's longtime accounting firm Mazars USA had been compelled by the US appeals court in Washington to hand over Mr Trump's financial records, following a subpoena from house Democrats. Mr Trump has asked the court to protect his financial records from House investigators as well as the Manhattan district attorney's office in New York, which is conducting a separate investigation into issues related to the president.

Both sides now must file the necessary paperwork with the Supreme Court, so that the justices can decide whether to take up the case.

The case has been interpreted as a test to see how successful Mr Trump may be in resisting subpoenas issued by House Democrats as a part of their impeachment probe, which is entering its second week of public hearings this week.

Mr Trump, breaking with tradition for modern presidents, has refused to detail his financial holdings publicly, leading to speculation about what they may contain.

On the campaign trail in 2016, Mr Trump claimed that he could not release the documents because he was being audited. He has since continued to refuse to release the returns, however.

Should the Supreme Court take up the case, the result could be a high profile showdown between Democrats and Mr Trump, and could test how sympathetic Mr Trump has managed to make the court after two polarising appointments to the panel earlier in his term. The court could also potentially rule more broadly on Mr Trump's assertion that he cannot, as president, be prosecuted or investigated for crimes.

The subpoena filed by the Manhattan district attorney is seeking to obtain his returns dating back to 2011 from Mazars. Mr Trump's lawyers say that criminal probes into the president at the state or local level are unconstitutional, and unprecedented in American history.

"Allowing the sitting president to be targeted for criminal investigation — and to be subpoenaed on that basis — would, like an indictment itself, distract him from the numerous and important duties of his office," wrote lawyer Jay Sekulow, in a brief, "intrude on and impair Executive Branch operations, and stigmatize the presidency."

A second, and similar, case has been brought forward by the House.

Mr Trump has so far lost in both cases at every level of the judicial system.

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