Federal Appeals Court Rules Against Trump Over Financial Crimes


A federal appeals court has issued yet another ruling against President Donald Trump’s attempt to hide his tax returns from Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, who has issued a subpoena for the records as part of an ongoing investigation into possible criminal fraud at the Trump Organization. On Wednesday, a three-judge panel on Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit unanimously upheld a lower-court ruling against the president’s latest arguments against the subpoena, which essentially hinge on the idea that the subpoena is punitively overbroad.

A previous case that the president brought against the same subpoena in which the president alleged that he should be exempt from compliance because of his status as president was thrown out by the U.S. Supreme Court, but they gave Trump’s team the option to bring other arguments against the subpoena, which they have now done. Similarly, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has delayed Vance’s subpoena from actually going into effect, giving the president an opportunity to appeal the matter to the U.S. Supreme Court for a second time. The court currently has 8 members following the recent death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but Senate Republicans are rushing to confirm her Trump-nominated replacement.

In their new ruling, the Appeals Court panel insisted that the president’s team’s argument that Vance’s grand jury investigation is limited to hush money payments to women with whom Trump had affairs “amounts to nothing more than implausible speculation.” The idea, of course, would be that if the investigation was limited to that subject, then there’d be no need for Vance to access the president’s broader financial records. Vance’s office has insisted that the investigation is not limited to that subject. In an August court filing, they cited potential “extensive and protracted criminal conduct” at the Trump Organization.

The Appeals Court notes in their new ruling that “the President’s allegations of bad faith fail to raise a plausible inference that the subpoena was issued out of malice or an intent to harass.” In other words, they could find no basis for the allegation from the president and his team that there’s some kind of anti-Trump conspiracy. There’s just accountability, or an attempt at it.

The New York Times recently obtained some of Trump’s tax returns, but the president and his team have, of course, vehemently disputed the accuracy of their reporting. Among other points, the paper says that records reveal that in 2016 and 2017, Trump only paid $750 in personal income tax per year. The paper also reported that Trump once claimed and received a giant tax refund totaling $72.9 million, which is now under investigation by the IRS.

Compliance with Vance’s subpoena would mean that the indisputable facts of the president’s finances would have to go on the record. There would be no opportunity for the president to dispute details and ask observers to take his word for it, because the records would be right there. The president and his top allies have consistently complained about investigations like the one Vance is leading, referring to the whole gamut as “witch hunts.”