U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in New York has rejected the effort of President Donald Trump to block a subpoena of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr., for his tax returns. As I noted when the action was filed, the position of the President that he cannot be subject to any criminal process of any kind while in office is extreme and unsupportable in the Constitution. The full opinion is below.
Vance is looking into whether Trump’s payment of hush money to two women before the 2016 election violated New York law. Vance acted under the authority of “an ongoing state criminal prosecution.” Trump argued that a sitting president cannot be subject to such criminal investigation.
Marrero noted correctly that the defense is entirely unwarranted:
“Consider the reach of the President’s argument. As the Court reads it, presidential immunity would stretch to cover every phase of criminal proceedings, including investigations, grand jury proceedings and subpoenas, indictment, prosecution, arrest, trial, conviction, and incarceration. That constitutional protection presumably would encompass any conduct, at any time, in any forum, whether federal or state, and whether the President acted alone or in concert with other individuals.”
The Trump team is likely to appeal the ruling but kicking this can down the road will not be a sustainable strategy for much longer. The argument is so extreme that it is doubtful that the President to hold all of the conservative justices in maintaining such arguments. The court is correct that the implications of this defense are chilling. It would create a sweeping immunity in a president who would be able to engage in criminal conduct in office with impunity. Impeachment is a power that goes to the office. Indictment goes to the individual. A president remains subject to both forms of investigation.
Here is the opinion: Trump Tax Return Decision