Supreme Court refuses Trump effort to block tax return subpoena

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The Supreme Court has cleared the way for prosecutors in New York City to receive eight years of former President Donald Trump’s tax returns and other financial records as part of an ongoing investigation into possible tax, insurance and bank fraud in Trump’s business empire.

The high court’s decision to turn down Trump’s request for a stay of a grand jury subpoena advances a criminal probe by Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. that appears to be one of the most serious of an array of legal threats Trump faces in his post-presidency.

The justices issued no explanation for the denial and no member of the court publicly noted any dissent.

Last July, the justices unanimously rejected Trump’s broad claims that he was absolutely immune from state and local criminal investigations while serving as president. However, the decision allowed Trump to pursue other arguments against a wide-ranging subpoena served on the Trump Organization in August 2019.

A federal appeals court rejected those arguments in October 2020, prompting Trump’s lawyers to make another run at the Supreme Court. An agreement with Vance put the subpoena fight on hold while the justices considered Trump’s request for a stay.

The precise contours of Vance’s investigation remain uncertain, but it appears to be centered on allegations from former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that the firm manipulated real estate valuations in order to maximize collateral for loans and minimize real estate taxes. Cohen also claimed that Trump committed fraud in dealings with insurance companies. Trump and the Trump Organization have denied the allegations.

The decision is the first breakthrough for investigators in accessing Trump’s financial records after numerous attempts by House Democrats and debates among federal investigators who worked for special counsel Robert Mueller. The House has been pursuing Trump’s financial records from his accounting firm, Mazars USA, as well as a top Trump creditor, Deutsche Bank. But those cases have been tied up in courts for years, with no end in sight.

The House is still weighing whether to seek Trump’s records from Mazars, a fight they launched in April 2019, now that he has left office.

The decision landed as President Joe Biden’s attorney general nominee, Merrick Garland, faced questions from senators at a confirmation hearing. One of the trickiest challenges facing Garland is how to approach matters related to the former president. But Vance’s inquiry is the most developed case against Trump and the gravest legal threat to the ex-president.

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