Trump lawyers to craft new reasons to keep his tax returns hidden

Team Trump may be switching tactics, but the desperation to keep his financial records hidden hasn't changed in the wake of the Supreme Court defeats.
Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump arrives to speak in the Rose Garden on July 14, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP
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By Steve Benen

When a New York prosecutor sought Donald Trump's tax returns as part of an investigation, the Republican's lawyers came up with a novel reason to refuse: the president, they claimed, has "absolute immunity" from effectively every part of the U.S. legal process, leaving him free to ignore subpoenas and investigations.

This argument was rejected by every court that heard it -- including the U.S. Supreme Court. Indeed, despite the high court's ideological divisions, all nine sitting justices agreed last week that Team Trump's "absolute immunity" claim was absurd.

But while that repudiation wasn't what the president hoped for, the Supreme Court's ruling in Trump v. Vance was only a partial setback: the justices sent the matter back to a lower court for further review, which offered Trump and his lawyers an opportunity to keep the process going.

Yesterday, as NBC News reported, the president's attorneys made clear that they intend to keep fighting to keep Trump's financial records hidden, though they'll come up with new arguments in the wake of the demise of "absolute immunity."

The Trump court filing said he is likely to claim that the subpoena is too broad, is motivated by a desire to harass, is meant to manipulate his policy decisions or retaliate against him for official acts, and would impede his ability to carry out his duties. They also say they'll need to know more about "the nature and the scope" of the investigation so they can evaluate whether the grand jury needs everything it's requesting.

Or put another way, Team Trump may be switching tactics, but the desperation to keep his financial records hidden hasn't changed at all in the wake of the Supreme Court defeats.

New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, meanwhile, doesn't appear impressed.

... Vance said Trump can oppose the subpoena only on the same grounds that anyone else would and cannot claim he's entitled to special consideration because he's the president. As for his potential claims, Vance said the federal judge has already ruled that there was no bad faith or attempt to harass and that compliance with the subpoena would not substantially impair the president's ability to carry out his official duties. It would be "highly irregular and inappropriate" for the president's lawyers to inquire into why the grand jury wants the materials, Vance said.

Though it initially seemed last week that the high court's ruling would delay the dispute for several months, Trump's lawyers are scheduled to file their new objections to the subpoena before the end of this month.

Watch this space.