NEW YORK -- A federal judge in Manhattan on Wednesday stayed a subpoena seeking eight years worth of President Donald Trump's tax records for 24 hours and gave the Justice Department until Monday to decide whether to intervene in the case.
U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero told the attorneys representing Trump and the Manhattan district attorney pursuing the documents that he would decide on a longer-term order after the two sides took another day to work out some of their differences, including about the hand-over of documents unrelated to the tax returns.
Late Tuesday, Manhattan federal prosecutors cited "weighty constitutional issues" as they told Marrero that they would like until mid-October to submit written arguments. Marrero gave them until next Wednesday.
The Department of Justice had asked the court to pause the case while it considers whether to join Trump in requesting a preliminary injunction. The case raises significant constitutional issues that the department is reviewing, the motion says.
Trump is fighting a grand jury subpoena asking Mazars USA, his longtime accounting firm, to turn over federal and state tax returns from the president and his businesses. The subpoenas are in connection with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance's investigation into hush-money payments to two women who say they had affairs with Trump.
In court Wednesday, Trump's attorney William Consovoy argued that Vance, a Democrat, was conducting an unlawful criminal investigation of a sitting president.
Trump's lawyers have assailed the investigation as politically motivated, saying Vance is "charging down this blatantly unconstitutional path" purely to harass the president.
Attorneys for Vance say the investigation is valid, and that if the court fully accepts Trump's argument, it would mean that presidents would not have to comply with grand jury subpoenas regarding their conduct out of office, and could extend that immunity to associates and employees.
"The law provides no such sweeping immunity," they wrote.
Justice Department policy says a sitting president cannot be indicted. Trump's lawsuit goes further, saying he cannot be subject to any criminal proceedings until out of office.
Allowing such inquiries would give local authorities the power to hamstring the president and should be prohibited, Consovoy said. If Vance's office is allowed to proceed, other states may follow his lead in attempting to harass the president, he said.
Trump "is not subject to criminal process while he's in office," he said.
Legal experts say that would be a leap from existing precedent. In 1974, for instance, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that President Richard Nixon had to comply with a subpoena from investigators and turn over tapes of his conversations in the Oval Office.
Marrero questioned whether Trump's argument meant that the president's businesses could not be investigated for criminal activity because the investigation could potentially implicate him in wrongdoing.
"How would the district attorney know if a business is engaged in criminality if it can't investigate? What happens if the statute of limitations is about to expire?" he said. "Will the business get off scot-free, riding on the tails of the president?"
Some potential charges may become moot if their statutes of limitations runs out and the case could become difficult to investigate, said Assistant District Attorney Solomon Shinerock, who also argued that the matter should be litigated in state court, not federal.
The subpoenas cover "a much larger bundle of documents than just tax returns" and involve not just the president, but his businesses and "many" third parties, Shinerock said. The documents also date back to 2011 when Trump was not in office, he said.
The district attorney's subpoena focuses on payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress, who was paid $130,000 by then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen for her silence before the 2016 election; and Karen McDougal, a former Playboy model who was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc., the publisher of the National Enquirer. Trump has denied having affairs with either woman.
On Aug. 29, a grand jury subpoenaed Mazars, the president's accounting firm, for tax records dating back to 2011, Vance's office said in its motion seeking to have Trump's lawsuit thrown out. The subpoenas are part of an effort to understand how the Trump Organization accounted for the payments to Daniels and McDougal and who was involved, the district attorney's office said.
Information for this article was contributed by Renae Merle and Deanna Paul of The Washington Post; and by Larry Neumeister of The Associated Press.
A Section on 09/26/2019
Print Headline: Trump tax-files subpoena stayed a day