Manhattan’s top attorney on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to stay out of a fight over President Donald Trump’s tax returns.
At issue is a petition the president’s lawyers filed last week seeking the Supreme Court’s intervention to strike down a New York-based federal appeals court order that Trump must turn over his financial records to a grand jury in Manhattan overseen by District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
Trump’s attorneys argued that Vance should be denied in his historic bid for a sitting president’s records as part of a state-based criminal investigation.
In a 44-page response, Vance countered that there’s nothing monumental about his subpoena to get the president’s tax returns when the Supreme Court has already ruled unanimously in two seminal cases that presidents can be subject to both a subpoena and civil lawsuits while still in office.
“This case presents only a narrow question that is readily resolved by those very precedents: whether a state may issue a subpoena to a third party seeking financial records of the sitting President when those records are relevant to a secret grand jury investigation and have no relation to official actions taken by the President during his time in office,” Vance said.
Vance was referring to the Supreme Court’s 1974 decision requiring President Richard Nixon to turn over secret White House tapes during the Watergate impeachment investigation and a separate 1997 opinion that President Bill Clinton couldn’t put off a civil lawsuit until his term was over.
The Manhattan DA also urged the justices to reject Trump’s petition because “there is no real public interest at stake here at all.”
“This case instead involves Petitioner’s private interest in seeking his own and others’ immunity from an ordinary investigation of financial improprieties independent of official duties,” Vance added. “That is not the kind of interest that warrants this Court’s intervention, particularly in the absence of any genuine controversy over the legal question presented.”
Trump’s request for Supreme Court review requires the approval of four justices to earn a slot on the docket for this term. Their decision on whether even to take the case will have immediate ramifications. If they reject the petition, the order from the U.S. 2nd Circuit of Appeals will come into force and the New York grand jury will gain access to the president’s financial records.
The New York case also isn’t the only one tied to Trump’s financial records that’s now before the Supreme Court. A key House committee on Thursday filed its own 44-page opposition brief to the justices urging them to reject the president’s request for an emergency stay blocking their access to a broad set of his documents.
The Democratic-led House Oversight and Government Reform Committee won earlier this month at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in its attempt to uphold a subpoena seeking the records from Mazars USA, Trump’s longtime accounting firm.
“It cannot be the case that the President has the right to stall any Congressional subpoena to which he objects through the months or years that it takes for a challenge to work its way through the lower courts and for this Court then to grant or deny certiorari,” House lawyers wrote. “If that were the case, the House — which has only a two-year term — would be radically constrained in its ability to conduct oversight or to collect information about the Executive Branch.”