The Manhattan District Attorney, who is blocked in a year-long legal battle with President Trump to obtain his tax returns, first suggested in court on Monday that he had grounds to investigate him and his business for tax fraud.
The statement from District Attorney’s Office Cyrus R. Vance Jr. gave a rare picture of the president’s investigation into his business dealings, which began more than two years ago.
Mr Vance, a Democrat, has never disclosed the scope of his office’s criminal investigation, citing the high secrecy of jurors. The investigation was halted by a fight for a subpoena issued by the service in August 201
Mr Trump’s lawyers said the summons should be blocked, calling it “wildly excessive” and politically motivated. Mr Vance responded to this argument in a carefully worded new statement that does not directly accuse Mr Trump or any of his companies or associates of wrongdoing and tries not to disclose details of the investigation.
However, prosecutors listed news reports and public testimony alleging that Mr. Trump and his business had misbehaved. The reports, prosecutors write, would justify a major investigation into a number of possible crimes, including tax and insurance fraud and forgery of business records. For the first time, the service suggests that tax fraud may be among the possible areas of investigation.
“Even if the grand jury only tested the veracity of the public allegations, such reports, taken together, fully justify the scope of the grand jury summons under consideration in this case,” the prosecutors wrote.
Jay Sekulov, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, declined to comment on the district attorney’s case.
The president said he expected the subpoena dispute to end in the Supreme Court. “This is a continuation of the witch hunt, the largest witch hunt in history,” Mr Trump said last month.
The conflict began when Mr. Vance’s prosecutors issued a subpoena to a grand jury of Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, seeking tax returns and other financial statements.
Mr Vance’s office is investigating silent payments made before the 2016 election to two women who claimed to be in a relationship with Mr Trump.
More recently, prosecutors have suggested in court documents that their investigation is broader, including a focus on possible financial crimes and insurance fraud. Prosecutors said they saw Mr. Trump’s recordings as key to their investigation.
Following the issuance of the subpoena, Mr. Trump filed a lawsuit in federal court to block it, arguing that as president sitting, he has general immunity from any criminal investigation. Judge Victor Marero of the Manhattan Federal District Court flatly rejected the lawsuit, which had not been tested in court before, and the president appealed.
Eventually, the dispute reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in July against Mr. Trump.
“No citizen, not even the president, is unequivocally above the general obligation to present evidence when summoned to criminal proceedings,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority.
But the judges said Mr. Trump could return to a lower court and raise other objections to the scope and appropriateness of the summons. Mr Trump’s lawyers returned to Judge Marero, arguing that the document’s request was political and “so extensive that it equated to an unmanaged and illegal fishing expedition”.
In August, Judge Marero rejected the president’s new arguments. The judge noted that Mr Trump’s protracted legal battle could lead to the expiry of the statute of limitations on possible crimes and effectively grant him the immunity to which the Supreme Court ruled he was not entitled.
“Basically, this is absolute immunity through the back door,” Judge Marero wrote. He added: “Justice requires an end to this dispute.”
Mr Trump is now appealing this decision to the US Court of Appeals for the second round. In recent court cases, his lawyers have described Judge Marero’s opinion as “flawed from start to finish” and accused him of “setting the deck” against the president.
“The president is not trying to raise a firm claim for immunity,” the lawyers wrote. “He disputes this particular summons on various grounds.”
The appellate court has scheduled oral arguments on Friday. However, the court ruled that either party could return the case to the Supreme Court, making it unlikely that the dispute would be resolved before the November 3rd presidential election.
Even if Mr Vance’s prosecutors eventually receive Mr Trump’s tax records, the grand jury’s confidentiality rules make it unlikely that the materials will be made public any time soon. They can only come to the surface if Mr Vance’s office brings charges and tax returns are presented as evidence in court.