President Donald Trump’s longtime accounting firm must hand over eight years of his tax returns to New York prosecutors, a U.S. appeals court ruled Monday in the latest setback for Trump in his tenacious efforts to keep his finances secret.
The ruling by a unanimous three-judge panel of the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals backed the ability of prosecutors to enforce a subpoena for the returns against accounting firm Mazars LLP.
Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump, said the Republican president will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, whose 5-4 conservative majority includes two justices appointed by Trump.
The office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat, is seeking the returns as part of a criminal investigation into Trump and his family real estate business. The scope of that probe is not publicly known.
The 2nd Circuit did not decide whether Trump is immune from being charged with a state crime while in office, as the president has argued. However, it found that even if he is, the immunity could not stop Vance from getting the returns from a third party, or from prosecuting him once he leaves office.
It would “exact a heavy toll on our criminal justice system to prohibit a state from even investigating potential crimes committed by him for potential later prosecution,” 2nd Circuit Chief Judge Robert Katzmann wrote in the ruling.
Vance’s office has agreed not to enforce the subpoena while Trump petitions the Supreme Court. Under the agreement, Trump has 10 business days to file the petition.
Trump, who built a real estate empire with his New York-based business before becoming president, separately faces an impeachment inquiry in the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives.
Trump has refused to make his tax returns public, breaking with a decades-old tradition of U.S. presidential candidates releasing their returns during campaigns and presidents disclosing them while in office.
More broadly, Trump has fought efforts by Democrats in Congress and others to obtain information about his finances and a range of other matters.
In a similar dispute, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in May refused to release Trump’s tax returns to a House committee, saying the request was not based on “a legitimate legislative purpose.”
The House then sued the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service in July to try to get access to the tax records.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Oct. 11 ruled in favour of the House bid to obtain Trump’s financial records from Mazars.