© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A general view of the US Supreme Court building in Washington
By Lawrence Hurley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump suffered a major setback in his long search for details of his finances on Monday when the US Supreme Court paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to have the former president's tax returns and other documents as part of receive an expedited criminal investigation.
The judges without comment denied Trump's motion to put on hold an October 7 lower court ruling instructing Republican businessman and politician Mazars USA's longtime accounting firm to comply with a subpoena to review the materials of a Manhattan-convened grand jury to pass District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.
"The work continues," Vance said in a statement made following the court's lawsuit.
Trump issued a statement describing Vance's investigation as part of "the greatest political witch hunt in our country's history" and accusing the New York Democrats of spending their energy on defeating a political opponent rather than fighting violent crime.
"This is fascism, not justice – and that is exactly what they are trying to do about me, except that the people in our country will not stand up for it," Trump added.
The Supreme Court lawsuit does not require Trump to do anything. The filing involved in the dispute was requested by a third party, Mazars, rather than Trump himself. Vance previously told Trump's attorneys that his office could immediately enforce the subpoena if the judges denied Trump's motion.
A Mazars spokesman said the company "remains committed to all of our professional and legal obligations."
Unlike all other recent US presidents, Trump refused to publish his tax returns. The data could provide details on his net worth and the activities of his family real estate company Trump Organization.
The Supreme Court lawsuit that followed Vance's hiring a prominent attorney with extensive experience in white-collar and organized crime cases this month could speed up the district attorney's investigation of the Trump Organization following a recent spate of subpoenas.
Reuters reported Friday that Vance's office had summoned a New York real estate tax authority, suggesting prosecutors are investigating Trump's efforts to lower his commercial property taxes for possible indications of fraud.
The Supreme Court, whose conservative majority of 6 to 3 includes three people appointed by Trump, had already ruled once in the subpoena dispute and in July last year rejected Trump's general argument that as a sitting president he was immune to criminal investigations.
Trump, who resigned from office on Jan. 20 after losing the November 3 election to Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face a range of legal issues relating to personal and business conduct.
Vance cited Mazars in 2019 to receive Trump's corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump's lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing that a seated president would have absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.
The Supreme Court dismissed those arguments in July but said Trump could raise other objections to the subpoena. Trump's lawyers then informed the lower courts that the subpoena was too broad and constituted political harassment. US District Judge Victor Marrero in August and the New York-based 2nd US Court of Appeals in October denied these claims.
Vance's investigation initially focused on hush money that Trump's former attorney and fixer Michael Cohen had paid prior to being elected adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in 2016. The two women said they had sexual encounters with Trump, which he denied.
In recent court files, Vance suggested that the investigation is now broader and could focus on potential banking, tax, and insurance fraud, as well as forgery of business records.
"The Supreme Court has now announced that no one is above the law. Trump will have to take responsibility for his own dirty deeds for the first time," Cohen said in a statement.
The court on Monday denied Daniel's offer to revive her defamation lawsuit against Trump.
In a separate lawsuit, the Democrat-run US House of Representatives is looking for similar Trump records from Mazars and Deutsche Bank (DE :).
The New York Times reported last year that Trump paid $ 750 in income taxes in both 2016 and 2017 and paid no income taxes for 10 of the last 15 years, due to chronic business losses he used to pay taxes to avoid. Trump has denied the Times report.