Supreme Court declines to shield Trump's tax returns from Manhattan DA
Donald Trump blasted a Supreme Court ruling on Monday that paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain his tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances. 'This investigation is a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country,' begins the missive, sent out from the Office of Donald J. Trump. The nearly-400 word statement, clearly dictated by Trump himself, brings back a litany of past complaints by the former president: calling the investigation a 'witch hunt,' blasting former special counsel Robert Mueller, and falsely claiming he won the election.
'So now, for more than two years, New York City has been looking at almost every transaction I’ve ever done, including seeking tax returns which were done by among the biggest and most prestigious law and accounting firms in the U.S. The Tea Party was treated far better by the IRS than Donald Trump.
The Supreme Court never should have let this “fishing expedition” happen, but they did. This is something which has never happened to a President before, it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo,' the statement says.
It even divulges into the first person - using the word 'I' repeatedly - and calls Trump by the title 'president.'
'These are attacks by Democrats willing to do anything to stop the almost 75 million people (the most votes, by far, ever gotten by a sitting president) who voted for me in the election—an election which many people, and experts, feel that I won. I agree!,' it reads.
Trump then claimed to be a victim of what his Attorney General Bill Barr called ' headhunters' - career prosecutors who go after high-profile targets.
'The new phenomenon of “headhunting” prosecutors and AGs - who try to take down their political opponents using the law as a weapon - is a threat to the very foundation of our liberty. That’s what is done in third world countries,' Trump says.
His statement comes after justices on the high court rebuffed his request to put on hold an October 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president's longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.
The ruling does not make Trump's tax records public but gives Vance access to eight years of returns for his probe into possible tax fraud, and payments to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.
They are not supposed to become public as part of the prosecutors' investigation, but the high court's action is a blow to Trump because he has for so long fought on so many fronts to keep his tax records shielded from view.
The justices did not disclose whether the court was split on taking the case, although at times justices who want to take a case but have been outvoted will make public their dissent. None did so Monday.
The ongoing investigation the records are part of could also become an issue for Trump in his life after the presidency.
The ruling against Trump comes just days before his planned political comeback, which will be a speech to the conservative conference CPAC on Sunday.
But the ruling indicates how litigation could hang over a Trump comeback - and Vance's probe is not the only one.
In Georgia, the Fulton District Attorney, Fani Willis, has opened an investigation into attempts to overturn the election result, which includes Trump's infamous call to Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger saying to him: 'I just want to find 11,780 votes.'
And Merrick Garland, Joe Biden's nominee for attorney general, faces deciding on whether the DOJ should investigate Trump over the January 6 MAGA rally.
Trump was given one piece of good news by the justices, when they rejected a plea from Stormy Daniels to overturn a ruling that she could not sue Trump for defamation for Tweeting that she was a 'con job.'
But the Manhattan probe is the most advanced. Vance's office had said it would be free to enforce the subpoena and obtain the records in the event the Supreme Court declined to step in and halt the records' turnover, but it was unclear when that might happen.
The case the high court ruled in involves a grand jury subpoena for more than eight years of Trump's personal and corporate tax records.
Vance has disclosed little about what prompted him to request the records. In one court filing last year, however, prosecutors said they were justified in demanding the records because of public reports of 'possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.'
Part of the probe involves payments to two women - porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal - to keep them quiet during the 2016 presidential campaign about alleged extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs.
In July, the justices in a 7-2 ruling rejected Trump's argument that the president is immune from investigation while he holds office or that a prosecutor must show a greater need than normal to obtain the tax records.
Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump nominated to the high court, joined that decision. It was issued before Trump's third nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court.
As part of its July decision, the high court returned the Vance case and a similar case involving records sought by Congress to lower courts. And the court prevented the records from being turned over while the cases proceeded.
Since the high court's ruling, in the Vance case, Trump's attorneys made additional arguments that his tax records should not be turned over, but they lost again in federal court in New York and on appeal. It was those rulings that Trump had sought to put on hold.
The Supreme Court waited months to act in the case. The last of the written briefs in the case was filed October 19. But a court that includes three Trump appointees waited through the election, Trump's challenge to his defeat and a month after Trump left office before issuing its order.
The court offered no explanation for the delay, and the legal issue before the justices did not involve whether Trump was due any special deference because he was president.
Vance has hired a high-profile attorney with decades of experience with white collar crime cases as it ramps up its investigation.
Mark Pomerantz, a former prosecutor for the US Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, joined Vance's team as a special assistant district attorney earlier this month.
Pomerantz has already hit the ground running, conducting an interview with Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen last Thursday, Reuters reported.
His hiring is part of a flurry of recent activity in Vance's investigation into the Trump family business, a probe which has been open for two and a half years.
Pomerantz, 69, has long been called a leading figure in New York legal circles, having served as chief of the criminal division in the US Attorney's Office for SDNY from 1997 to 1999 before moving into private practice with the law firm Paul Weiss.
As a private attorney, Pomerantz has regularly represented major companies and officials in state and federal prosecutions, including cases brought by the US Department of Justice.
He has handled matters involving charges of corporate misconduct, financial fraud, tax crimes and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a federal law used to prosecute organized crime and ongoing criminal activities.
The attorney is credited with helping form the legal definition of racketeering in a RICO case he defended in 1988, according to the New York Times.
Pomerantz launched his career with two impressive clerkships, with Judge Edward Weinfeld in Manhattan and Justice Potter Stewart on the Supreme Court.
He went on to serve as a federal prosecutor for the US Attorney's Office in Manhattan, where he rose through the ranks to lead the appellate unit.
Pomerantz left the US Attorney's Office in 1982 for private practice, where he worked on more than two dozen cases involving organized crime at a time when prosecutors dramatically escalated efforts to put Mafia bosses behind bars.
He returned to SDNY in the late 90s to oversee more major organized crime and securities fraud cases, including the prosecution of Gambino boss John A Gotti.
Pomerantz left the SDNY again in 2000 to join Paul Weiss. One of his biggest cases to date was defending then-senator Robert Torricelli (D - New Jersey) against allegations of campaign finance violations in 2002.
His experience in both prosecuting and defending white collar criminals will likely prove invaluable to Vance's office in its investigation of Trump.
'He worked both sides of the street, so he's not going to be biased by virtue of temperament,' Robert S Litt, a former general counsel for the Director of National Intelligence who has known Pomerantz since the 70s, told the Times.
Vance also recently issued roughly a dozen new subpoenas in its investigation of Trump, two sources close to the probe told Reuters last week.
One of the subpoenas went to Ladder Capital Finance LLC, a major creditor used by Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, to finance the former president´s commercial real estate holdings, the sources said.
Vance's office has also conducted interviews with Ladder's staff, one source familiar with the matter said. Ladder did not reply to requests for comment.
The district attorney's office has said little publicly about the probe, but noted in court filings that the investigation was focused on 'possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct' at the Trump Organization, including alleged falsification of records, and insurance and tax fraud. It is the only known criminal inquiry into Trump's business practices.
Separately, New York state Attorney General Letitia James is leading a civil probe into whether Trump's company falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.
Both investigations are examining whether Trump's company placed artificially high values on several major commercial properties in documents used to secure favorable loan arrangements, while diminishing the value of those properties in filings used as a basis for calculating its tax bills.
Cohen's interview with Pomerantz - his fifth interview with Vance's office - was not previously reported and it is unclear precisely what issues were covered. But it signals intense interest in Cohen's intimate knowledge of the financial affairs of the Trump Organization.
Cohen declined to comment. A representative for Trump and a lawyer for the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.
In court filings, the Trump Organization has denied that the company inflated assets. Trump, a Republican, has described the New York investigations as politically motivated. Vance and James are both Democrats.
Cohen, who describes himself as Trump's longtime, do-anything fixer, is in home confinement serving a three-year sentence on charges related to payoffs he made during the 2016 presidential race to buy the silence of two women who alleged they had affairs with Trump.
Under a plea deal, Cohen cooperated extensively with prosecutors - an arrangement that also would help protect him against further prosecution for evidence he provides in the Vance probe.
Cohen, a potential high-profile witness for Vance, pleaded guilty in 2018 to charges in the hush-money case, as well as allegations of lying to Congress about negotiations concerning a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, a project that never materialized.
'I think Cohen may be more valuable than people are giving him credit for,' said Daniel Alonso, Vance's top deputy from 2010 to 2014 and now in private practice.
'He obviously has committed perjury. He has credibility issues. But the perjury he committed was allegedly at the behest of Donald Trump, at least tacitly. I don't think that calling Cohen a perjurer ends the story, because that opens the door to the explanation of why he perjured himself.'
Donald Trump Statement on Ruling
This investigation is a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country, whether it was the never ending $32 million Mueller hoax, which already investigated everything that could possibly be investigated, “Russia Russia Russia,” where there was a finding of “No Collusion,” or two ridiculous “Crazy Nancy” inspired impeachment attempts where I was found NOT GUILTY. It just never ends!
So now, for more than two years, New York City has been looking at almost every transaction I’ve ever done, including seeking tax returns which were done by among the biggest and most prestigious law and accounting firms in the U.S. The Tea Party was treated far better by the IRS than Donald Trump. The Supreme Court never should have let this “fishing expedition” happen, but they did. This is something which has never happened to a President before, it is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo. These are attacks by Democrats willing to do anything to stop the almost 75 million people (the most votes, by far, ever gotten by a sitting president) who voted for me in the election—an election which many people, and experts, feel that I won. I agree!
The new phenomenon of “headhunting” prosecutors and AGs—who try to take down their political opponents using the law as a weapon—is a threat to the very foundation of our liberty. That’s what is done in third world countries. Even worse are those who run for prosecutorial or attorney general offices in far-left states and jurisdictions pledging to take out a political opponent. That’s fascism, not justice—and that is exactly what they are trying to do with respect to me, except that the people of our Country won’t stand for it.
In the meantime, murders and violent crime are up in New York City by record numbers, and nothing is done about it. Our elected officials don’t care. All they focus on is the persecution of President Donald J. Trump.
I will fight on, just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win!
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