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Trump Lawyers: Manhattan DA Is ‘Illegally Harassing’ the President with ‘Weak’ Case for Tax Returns

WASHINGTON, DC - July 24: President Donald Trump speaks as he presents the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Olympic track and field athlete and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives Jim Ryun in the Blue Room of the White House on July 24, 2020 in Washington, D.C. Ryun, a former Kansas congressman, was the first high school runner to run a mile in under four minutes. He competed in three Olympic Games and won a silver medal in 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.

Attorneys representing President Donald Trump in his legal battle against Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance on Monday continued asking a federal judge to reject a subpoena for Trump’s tax returns, arguing that the request was overly broad and constituted prosecutors “illegally harassing” the president.

The filing comes one-week to the day after Vance’s office indicated that the scope of its investigation into Trump was in fact significantly broader than initially reported, and included allegations of insurance and bank fraud by the Trump organization and its officers. Trump filed the initial complaint to block the subpoena in Sept. 2019. Those allegations stem from the New York Times’ award-winning exposé on the Trump family’s alleged multi-decade tax fraud scheme; prosecutors said there was evidence of “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.”

But in a 26-page memorandum submitted in the Southern District of New York (SDNY), Trump’s attorneys contended that Vance’s office was only investigating the president for allegations that he, through his then-attorney Michael Cohen, unlawfully paid hush-money to women with whom he had affairs in advance of the 2016 election. The memo argues that because factual allegations from a plaintiff seeking to stave off dismissal of a case must be accepted as true under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court must accept the president’s assertion regarding the scope of Vance’s investigation.

“The President plausibly alleges that the grand-jury investigation is about certain payments made in 2016—not some murky inquiry into broader financial practices. Likewise, the President plausibly alleges that the District Attorney copied the congressional subpoenas in a fit of pique and for reasons of expediency—not because his investigation into local issues and Congress’s investigation into federal issues, by some truly bizarre coincidence, have exactly the same scope and cover exactly the same timeframe,” the memo stated.

“Once the President’s allegations are accepted as true, as they must be, it becomes clear that the District Attorney’s motion is doomed. The subpoena is overbroad in relation to an investigation into payments made in 2016, and copying a congressional subpoena for nearly a decade’s worth of financial documents and issuing it for no legitimate reason states a claim for bad faith. The District Attorney’s refusal to confront these claims as pled shows just how weak his position is.”

However, given that the breadth of the DA’s grand jury investigation into the Trump Organization is secretive by law, and therefore unknown to Trump and his attorneys, a judge may not be inclined to accept Trump’s assertion about the probe as an allegation of fact.

As attorney David Lurie wrote last week in The Daily Beast, Trump has “no basis to make declarations about the scope of the DA’s investigation; indeed, the only detailed explanation Vance has offered to date is contained in a (properly) secretly filed portion of a declaration by one of his prosecutors that has been reviewed only by the court.”

Even if Trump’s complaint against Vance is dismissed, protracted delays in all tax return-related litigation has been widely viewed as a victory for the president; tangible developments are generally seen as unlikely to materialize until after the 2020 election.

See below for the full filing:

Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Motion by Law&Crime on Scribd

[image via Samuel Corum/Pool/Getty Images]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.