Topline: The battle for President Trump’s tax returns escalated Monday with a federal court ruling that the records must be turned over to a New York grand jury, a decision that the president’s lawyers will likely appeal at the U.S. Supreme Court.
CNBC reported that a three-judge panel rejected Trump’s claim that he is immune from criminal investigation as a sitting president.
As part of the ruling, Trump is instructed to hand over eight years of tax returns to Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance.The court also said that in this case, Trump’s accounting firm—not the president himself—was subpoenaed for the tax returns, meaning the immunity argument does not apply.
The ruling follows an October 23 hearing in which Trump lawyer William Consovoy argued that the president should be immune from any prosecution—even if he shot someone on New York City’s Fifth Avenue, following a similar comment made by Trump in 2016.
Although the court ruled that Trump must hand over his financial records, his lawyers are likely to appeal the case (seen as a test of the scope of presidential privilege) to the Supreme Court for a final decision.
Crucial quote: “This appeal does not require us to consider whether the president is immune from indictment and prosecution while in office, nor to consider whether the president may lawfully be ordered to produce documents for use in a state criminal proceeding,” read the judges’ decision.
Surprising fact: According to the New York Times, the immunity argument has never been tested in court. Although federal prosecutors can’t charge a sitting president with a crime due to a Justice Department decision granting temporary immunity, presidents can still be subjected to federal criminal investigations.
Key background: Vance is seeking eight years of Trump’s personal and business tax returns as part of a grand jury investigation into hush-money payments.
Prosecutors argued that presidential immunity doesn’t exist for tax returns and have assured the courts that the records, if obtained, would be kept confidential. A U.S. district judge rejected Trump’s argument that a sitting president is immune from all investigation and prosecution in an October 7 ruling, calling the effort to prohibit investigations of the president “repugnant.” Trump’s lawyers appealed the decision, leading to the October 23 hearing.