History mandates presidential candidates release tax returns, but not how many

Appeals court: Trump’s tax returns must be delivered to NY prosecutors

It was just two weeks ago when Donald Trump’s lawyers, hired specifically to keep the president’s tax returns hidden, made a highly provocative argument to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals. As far as William Consovoy and the rest of Trump’s legal team was concerned, a president can’t be scrutinized or investigated by anyone so long as he’s in office.

Asked what would happen if Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue, the president’s attorney said nothing could be done to Trump until after he left office.

Evidently, the three-judge panel was not persuaded.

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that President Donald Trump’s tax returns must be turned over to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who had subpoenaed the documents from Trump’s accounting firm as part of an investigation into the pre-election payoffs to two women who alleged affairs with Trump.

Trump is likely to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Court. Trump had earlier lost the initial case before a federal district court.

The three-judge panel wrote in their decision that “any presidential immunity from state criminal process does not extend to investigative steps like the grand jury subpoena at issue here,” affirming the lower court’s ruling on that question.

The full, 34-page ruling in Trump v. Vance is online here.

Because there are multiple ongoing lawsuits surrounding the president’s hidden tax returns, it’s easy to get confused about the various cases. Circling back to our earlier coverage, this morning’s developments involve a case out of New York City, where a district attorney’s office is investigating Trump’s hush-money scandal.

The DA’s office subpoenaed the president’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, for several years’ worth of personal and business tax returns. Trump’s lawyers intervened to block the firm from cooperating.

At the lower court, Trump’s legal team argued that a sitting American president cannot be investigated by anyone for any reason, no matter how serious the underlying accusation. The district court judge disagreed and ruled in prosecutors’ favor. As of this morning, an appellate court reached the same conclusion.

At this point, Team Trump has a few options – I assume disclosure and transparency will not be considered – but the most likely next step is an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.