A federal appeals court ruled on Monday morning that President Trump must turn over eight years of personal and corporate tax returns, financial information that he has thus far successfully shielded from the public since he entered political life.
The president’s team had been seeking a preliminary injunction to shield the returns, which Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance had subpoenaed from Mazars USA, Trump’s accounting firm. Vance is investigating whether Trump broke New York state law when the Trump Organization allegedly reimbursed Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, for $130,000 in hush money Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election.
The case is now likely heading to the Supreme Court, which, if it takes up the argument, will have the final word on whether the public actually gets to glimpse the fabled returns. There, a conservative-leaning court may be friendlier to the Trump administration’s arguments than the judges they’ve encountered in the case so far.
In an initial hearing before a federal judge earlier this month, a lawyer for the president had suggested that the president enjoyed complete immunity from prosecution while in office, arguing that if Trump shot someone on Fifth Avenue (as in the famous scenario the president envisioned when he was a candidate), he could not legally be prosecuted. Judge Victor Marrero called that argument “repugnant to the nation’s governmental structure and constitutional values.”
But the three-member panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals did not weigh in on questions of immunity while in office. In its decision, the court wrote that the question was irrelevant because Vance’s subpoena was issued for Trump’s accounting firm, not the man himself:
“This appeal does not require us to consider whether the president is immune from indictment and prosecution while in office, nor to consider whether the president may lawfully be ordered to produce documents for use in a state criminal proceeding.”