Lawyers for a Manhattan prosecutor trying to get President Donald Trump’s tax returns have told a judge that the request is justified because of public reports of “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization”.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr has been seeking eight years of the Republican president’s personal and corporate tax records, but had previously disclosed little about what prompted him to request the records, other than that part of the investigation is related to payoffs made to women to keep them quiet about alleged affairs with Trump.
Trump’s lawyers last month said the grand jury subpoena for the tax returns was issued in bad faith and amounted to harassment of the president.
In their court filing on Monday, though, lawyers for Vance said Trump’s arguments that the subpoena was too broad stemmed from “the false premise” that the probe was limited to the so-called “hush-money” payments.
“This Court is already aware that this assertion is fatally undermined by undisputed information in the public record,” Vance’s lawyers wrote.
They said public reporting demonstrates that at the time the subpoena was issued “there were public allegations of possible criminal activity at Plaintiff’s New York County-based Trump Organization dating back over a decade”.
“These reports describe transactions involving individual and corporate actors based in New York County, but whose conduct at times extended beyond New York’s borders. This possible criminal activity occurred within the applicable statutes of limitations, particularly if the transactions involved a continuing pattern of conduct,” the lawyers said.
Trump, speaking at the White House on Monday, dismissed Vance’s requests as “just a continuation of the witch hunt,” which he says stretches back to the investigation into his 2016 campaign team’s connections to Russia.
‘Temporary absolute immunity’
The lawyers urged Judge Victor Marrero to swiftly reject Trump’s arguments, saying the baseless claims were threatening the investigation. Marrero, who ruled against Trump last year, has scheduled arguments to be fully submitted by mid-August.
“Every day that goes by is another day Plaintiff effectively achieves the ‘temporary absolute immunity’ that was rejected by this Court, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court,” Vance’s lawyers said. “Every such day also increases the prospect of a loss of evidence or the expiration of limitations periods – the precise concerns that the Supreme Court observed justified its rejection of Plaintiff’s immunity claim in the first place.”
The Supreme Court last month rejected claims by Trump’s lawyers that the president could not be criminally investigated while he was in office.
Vance sought the tax records in part for a probe of how Trump’s then-personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged during the 2016 presidential race to keep the porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal from airing claims of extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs.
Cohen is serving the last two years of a three-year prison sentence in home confinement after pleading guilty to campaign finance violations and lying to Congress, among other charges. He said he plans to publish a book critical of the president before the November election.