Donald Trump tax returns

Appeals Court temporarily blocks prosecutors’ subpoena

Ruling is latest development in yearlong fight between president and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.


Manhattan prosecutors can’t obtain President Trump’s tax returns during a pending appeal, a three-judge panel ruled Tuesday, handing a temporary win to Mr. Trump in his bid to shield financial documents from a criminal investigation.

The ruling, from the Second U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, is the latest development in a yearlong fight between Mr. Trump and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr., who is conducting a financial investigation into the president and his company.

Mr. Vance could appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, but hasn’t indicated if he plans to do so.

The three-judge panel heard arguments in the case earlier Tuesday. The court scheduled arguments over the appeal for Sept. 25.

In court papers, Mr. Vance, a Democrat, has said he is investigating possible bank or insurance fraud. He has also requested documents related to hush-money payments made to two women who claim they had affairs with Mr. Trump, which he has denied.

In August 2019, a grand jury convened by Mr. Vance issued a subpoena to Mr. Trump’s accounting firm for eight years of tax returns and other records. In September 2019, the president sued the district attorney, arguing he was immune from criminal investigation while in office.

That case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which this July rejected Mr. Trump’s claim of absolute immunity and sent the case back to the lower court. “The President is neither absolutely immune from state criminal subpoenas seeking his private papers nor entitled to a heightened standard of need,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote.

After the trial judge again dismissed the case, Mr. Trump asked the appeals panel to block the subpoena during the case’s appeal. His lawyers have said they are no longer making the argument about absolute immunity but arguing the subpoena is overbroad and issued in bad faith.

On Tuesday, Judge John M. Walker Jr. questioned how one determines that a subpoena is too broad when the scope of the investigation isn’t public. He said the district attorney’s subpoena asked for information from numerous entities and parent companies and included activities in Europe and Dubai.

“It has the feeling of overbreadth, but there’s no way to measure,” the judge said.

Carey Dunne, general counsel for Mr. Vance, said because many financial transactions go through New York, the district attorney’s office conducts such probes routinely. He said the allegations the office is investigating were also in public reports.

“We would be remiss not to be exploring all these allegations that have been made,” Mr. Dunne said.

William Consovoy, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said if the documents were handed to the grand jury during the appeals process, that harm to the president couldn’t be undone.

Mr. Dunne said that if a court later denied access to the documents, prosecutors could convene a new grand jury or destroy the documents. “The toothpaste can be put back into the tube sufficiently to protect people’s rights,” he said.

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