A federal appeals court has issued the latest legal blow to Donald Trump, ruling that he could not invoke presidential immunity to shield his tax returns from New York state prosecutors.
The decision on Monday by the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals came after Mr Trump sued to stop the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining his returns with a subpoena sent to his accountants, Mazars USA.
The ruling, which sets up a fight at the conservative-majority Supreme Court, argued that the idea of presidential immunity from indictment did not apply to the investigative steps in a criminal investigation.
Robert Katzmann, the chief judge for the 2nd Circuit, dismissed Mr Trump’s claims that compliance with the subpoena would put an undue burden on the president and interfere with his constitutional duties.
“The subpoena at issue is directed not to the president, but to his accountants; compliance does not require the president to do anything at all,” he wrote, noting also that the past six presidents “all voluntarily released their tax returns to the public”.
“While we do not place dispositive weight on this fact, it reinforces our conclusion that the disclosure of personal financial information, standing alone, is unlikely to impair the president in performing the duties of his office,” he wrote.
Jay Sekulow, an attorney for Mr Trump, said the decision “will be taken to the Supreme Court”.
“The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our republic. The constitutional issues are significant,” he said in a statement.
The decision was the latest example of US courts pushing back against the expansive claims of immunity from oversight that Mr Trump has made as he faces impeachment in Congress and a criminal probe led by Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney.
Mr Vance is investigating possible crimes linked to alleged hush-money payments paid to two women who claimed affairs with Mr Trump.
Mr Trump has sought to block the release of information to congressional committees investigating his finances, the testimony of former administration officials in his impeachment inquiry and the release of his tax returns to either Congress or prosecutors.
He has argued that Congress has no right to investigate his business affairs, while also arguing that presidential immunity from federal indictment — a long-held policy of the Department of Justice that has never been affirmed by the courts — prevents prosecutors from doing so either.
In October, the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, also ruled against Mr Trump as he tried to stop House Democrats from using a subpoena to obtain his tax returns from Mazars. The decision in that case pointedly cited a nearly century-old court opinion that said the separation of powers existed in the US government to “save people from autocracy”.
The post US appeals court deals Trump a setback over tax returns appeared first on Financial Times.