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UPDATE 5-U.S. Supreme Court sets the stage for release of Trump tax returns

Lawrence Hurley
·4-min read

(Adds Trump comments)

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Donald Trump suffered a majorsetback on Monday in his long quest to conceal details of hisfinances as the U.S. Supreme Court paved the way for a New YorkCity prosecutor to obtain the former president's tax returns andother records as part of an accelerating criminal investigation.

The justices without comment rebuffed Trump's request to puton hold an Oct. 7 lower court ruling directing the Republicanbusinessman-turned-politician's longtime accounting firm, MazarsUSA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to agrand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance,a Democrat.

"The work continues," Vance said in a statement issued afterthe court's action.

Trump issued a statement describing Vance's investigation aspart of "the greatest political witch hunt in the history of ourcountry," accusing New York Democrats of expending their energyon taking down a political opponent instead of tackling violentcrimes.

"That's fascism, not justice - and that is exactly what theyare trying to do with respect to me, except that the people ofour Country won't stand for it," Trump added.

The Supreme Court's action does not require Trump to doanything. The records involved in the dispute were requestedfrom a third-party, Mazars, not Trump himself. Vance previouslytold Trump's lawyers his office would be free to immediatelyenforce the subpoena if the justices rejected Trump's request.

A Mazars spokesman said the company "remains committed tofulfilling all of our professional and legal obligations."

Unlike all other recent U.S. presidents, Trump refused tomake his tax returns public. The data could provide details onhis wealth and the activities of his family real-estate company,the Trump Organization.

The Supreme Court's action, which followed Vance's hiringthis month of a prominent lawyer with deep experience inwhite-collar and organized-crime cases, could boost the districtattorney's investigation into the Trump Organization following aflurry of recent subpoenas.

Reuters reported on Friday that Vance's office hadsubpoenaed a New York City property tax agency, suggestingprosecutors are examining Trump's efforts to reduce hiscommercial real-estate taxes for possible evidence of fraud.

The Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includesthree Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the subpoenadispute, last July rejecting Trump's broad argument that he wasimmune from criminal probes as a sitting president.

Trump, who left office on Jan. 20 after losing the Nov. 3election to Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array oflegal issues concerning personal and business conduct.

Vance subpoenaed Mazars in 2019 seeking Trump's corporateand personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump's lawyers suedto block the subpoena, arguing that a sitting president hasabsolute immunity from state criminal investigations.

The Supreme Court in July rejected those arguments but saidTrump could raise other subpoena objections. Trump's lawyersthen told lower courts the subpoena was overly broad andamounted to political harassment. U.S. District Judge VictorMarrero in August and the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Courtof Appeals in October rejected those claims.

Vance's investigation initially focused on hush money paidby Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen before the 2016election to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboymodel Karen McDougal. The two women said they had sexualencounters with Trump, which he denied.

In recent court filings, Vance suggested the probe is nowbroader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurancefraud, as well as falsification of business records.

"The Supreme Court has now proclaimed that no one is abovethe law. Trump will, for the first time, have to takeresponsibility for his own dirty deeds," Cohen said in astatement.

The court on Monday separately turned away Daniels' bid torevive her defamation lawsuit against Trump.

In separate litigation, the Democratic-led U.S. House ofRepresentatives is seeking similar Trump records from Mazars andDeutsche Bank.

The New York Times reported last year that Trump had paid$750 in federal income taxes in both 2016 and 2017, and noincome taxes in 10 of the prior 15 years, reflecting chronicbusiness losses that he used to avoid paying taxes. Trump hasdisputed the Times report.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by KarenFreifeld and Jason Szep; Editing by Will Dunham)