President Donald Trump took aim at the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Thursday, saying in new court papers that prosecutors were using “speculation and innuendo” to justify an unfair subpoena seeking eight years of his tax returns.
The district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., began investigating Trump and his business practices more than two years ago and was thought to have been examining payments made to two women who said they had had affairs with the president.
But prosecutors have since hinted in court filings that the inquiry is much broader and could focus on a range of financial crimes, including tax and insurance fraud. They have cited multiple news reports that alleged misconduct by Trump or his companies as possible grounds for a wide grand jury inquiry. The prosecutors have said that Trump’s tax returns are central to the inquiry.
Lawyers for the president, who are trying to block the subpoena, dismissed the suggestion of a broader investigation as “a useful public-relations tactic.”
“The district attorney nowhere claims that his office is actually investigating any of the discredited, stale and recycled allegations of wrongdoing that are recounted in the press reports he has compiled,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in the new court filing.
Vance, a Democrat, and his prosecutors have refused to detail the focus of the investigation publicly, citing grand jury secrecy rules. Instead, court filings have relied on the news articles to show what potential crimes a grand jury might have reason to investigate.
Trump’s lawyers argued those explanations fall short.
“The district attorney resorts to speculation and innuendo in order to create a misimpression that his office has undertaken an investigation broad enough to somehow justify the abusive subpoena,” they wrote.
Vance’s office had no comment Thursday.
The subpoena was issued in August 2019 by Vance’s office to Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA. Since then, the president and Vance have been locked in a legal battle over whether Vance may obtain the tax returns.
The president’s filing came on the eve of oral arguments scheduled for today before a three-judge panel on the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Trump has asked the appeals court to overturn a ruling last month by Judge Victor Marrero of U.S. District Court in Manhattan, who dismissed the president’s attempt to block the subpoena.
Trump’s lawyers, in their filing Thursday, argued that the president had not yet had a fair chance to test the legality of the subpoena and reiterated a long-standing request for more information about Vance’s inquiry.
“The Supreme Court remanded this case to the district court so the president could raise fact-specific challenges to the Mazars subpoena,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “But he wasn’t given that opportunity.”
Although the 2nd Circuit is expected to rule quickly, either party may then go to the Supreme Court, and it is unclear if the dispute will be decided before the Nov. 3 presidential election.