However, the reprieve is only temporary–Trump was already ordered by one judge to release his tax returns.
President Trump won a temporary reprieve Monday, mere hours after a federal judge ordered him to turn over a decade’s worth of tax returns to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Earlier in the day, a federal judge in New York ordered the president’s longtime account firm to turn over Trump’s records. The Manhattan D.A.’s request was ordered as part of a criminal probe, and the White House has been pushing back ever since. Trump attorneys have claimed that, in all but the most exceptional of circumstances, a sitting President of the United States cannot be investigated or indicted as part of a criminal investigation.
The commander-in-chief’s critics have contested that narrative, arguing that nobody—not even Donald Trump—is above the law. Their hopes were briefly boosted by Judge Victor Marrero’s decision.
In the earlier ruling, Marrero rejected Trump’s arguments, saying he could not endorse “a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process.”
The D.A.’s investigation involves allegations that Trump, among a great many other things, paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to silence women he had affairs with. Two women purportedly received “hush money,” paid out by the Trump Organization.
The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump. A thing like this has never happened to any President before. Not even close!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 7, 2019
The president’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, testified before Congress earlier this year that the Trump Organization paid him $350,000 in reimbursement after he paid the women himself. Cohen’s testimony was accompanied by receipts.
“And these include a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account, after he became president, to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and to prevent damage to his campaign,” Cohen told Congress.
According to National Public Radio, the Manhattan D.A. is trying to determine whether Trump falsified business records—a crime in New York.
Kelly Richmond Pope, a forensic account professor at DePaul University, told NPR that Trump’s returns could tell a lot about the president’s financial history. If retrieved, they could confirm Cohen’s claims—or show nothing whatsoever.
“Numbers tell stories,” Richmond Pope said. “So following those numbers can help piece together a story.”
Jeff Hoopes, an associate professor of business at the University of North Carolina, told National Public Radio that even if the D.A. gets Trump’s returns, they’re not going to be easy to parse apart.
“If your goal with Donald Trump’s tax return is to find something he did wrong with his taxes, it’s not gonna be easy—at all,” Hoopes said, noting that it’s likely Trump has endured multiple Internal Revenue Service audits.
NPR notes that prosecutors will probably also be looking for information pertaining to the president’s dealings with foreign entities.
“He has made some pretty definitive statements about his relationship, for example, with Russia,” Hoopes said. “If it turns out […] he has some kind of financial holdings, or assets in a financial institution in Russia, that might contradict what he’s said about his relationship with Russia.”
Trump’s refusal to follow precedent in releasing his tax returns upon assuming office have prompted accusations that he has something to hide—with it’s hush money payments, foreign assets or simply a lack of charitable giving.
Nevertheless, Trump and his attorneys say the probe is politically motivated. Writing on Twitter Monday, President Trump lashed out against his opponents, saying the investigation is part of a broader conspiracy by the so-called “Radical Left.”
“The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump,” he tweeted. “A thing like this has never happened to any President before. Not even close!”