- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2019

A federal judge decided Monday that President Trump must turn over his tax returns to a New York grand jury — though the ruling was halted to give the president a chance to have his appeal heard.

Judge Victor Marrero said Mr. Trump’s attempt to shield himself from complying with the grand jury investigation was “extraordinary,” and would set a dangerous precedent if allowed to stand.

“The interest the president asserts in maintaining confidentiality of certain personal financial and tax records that largely relate to a time before he assumed office, and that may involve unlawful conduct by third persons and possibly the president, is far outweighed by the interests of state law enforcement officers and the federal courts in ensuring the full, fair and effective administration of justice,” ruled Judge Marrero, a Clinton appointee to the court.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers immediately filed an appeal with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and the judges there issued an administrative stay on Judge Marrero’s ruling, giving the president a reprieve — for now.

But the ruling is a major hurdle for the president, who has determinedly refused to release his taxes, defying decades of custom for presidents and major party candidates.

Judge Marrero said what Mr. Trump is asking for is a total immunity that would protect not only a president but also associates from criminal investigation while in office.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers say Judge Marrero rejected decades of Justice Department policy in nixing claims of presidential immunity, and they urged the 2nd Circuit to step in.

“This case presents momentous questions of first impression regarding the presidency, federalism and the separation of powers,” wrote Patrick Strawbridge, the president’s attorney, in asking the appeals court for a careful consideration.

Democrats both inside and outside Washington believe there is embarrassing information in the returns that Mr. Trump doesn’t want voters to know — including potential evidence of crimes — and they’ve gone to great lengths to try to pry the returns loose.

House Democrats have issued a subpoena to the IRS and the Treasury Department for the returns. The administration has refused, saying Democrats don’t have a “legitimate” interest in seeing the information.

California, meanwhile, enacted a new law this year requiring presidential candidates to reveal their taxes in order to appear on ballots. A judge struck that law down last week.

In New York, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. says he’s looking into whether the president broke the law by paying hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal during the presidential campaign.

He’s seeking eight years of personal and corporate tax returns from Mr. Trump and his associated businesses, and issued a grand jury subpoena to Mazars USA, the president’s accounting firm, for the documents.

The women said they had affairs with Mr. Trump years before he was a presidential candidate.

He has denied the affairs, and at first expressed ignorance over the payments. But he has since admitted to them — though he has denied the claims by his former personal lawyer Michael Cohen that the payments constitute a campaign contribution.

After Mr. Trump’s appeal Monday, Mr. Vance asked the 2nd Circuit to speed the case, saying he wanted briefings and oral argument this week.

Mr. Trump’s lawyers and the Justice Department asked for a slower pace stretching at least through next week.

The court, in an evening scheduling order, agreed with Mr. Trump’s request, with briefs due over the next two weeks and oral argument to be heard after that.

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