Prosecutors in New York State may finally be able to get their hands on the holy grail of Donald Trump’s many critics and opponents — his highly elusive income tax returns — after issuing a subpoena to the president’s accounting firm demanding eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, according to an article in The New York Times.
The Manhattan district attorney’s office issued the subpoena several weeks ago in conjunction with the start of a criminal investigation into Trump and his real-estate business and the role they played in the payments of hush-money during the 2016 presidential campaign to the two women in the erotic entertainment business with whom the president allegedly carried on extra-marital affairs.
The payments are being probed as felony violations of campaign finance laws and have already resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of Donald Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen for his involvement in the illicit scheme. Cohen has subsequently turned against his former employer at the Trump Organization and has been cooperating with both federal and state prosecutors who have investigated the payoffs.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has requested that Mazars USA, the accounting firm for both Trump and his real estate business, hand over copies of both his personal and business federal and state tax returns as far back as 2011, The Times‘ sources said.
Despite Trump being widely acknowledged to be the “Individual #1” who directed that the hush money to be paid to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal — as cited in the federal prosecution documents in the case against Michael Cohen that resulted in a guilty plea from the Trump Organization lawyer — the Justice Department inexplicably announced that they had “effectively concluded” their investigation of any crimes possibly committed by anyone else connected with the payoffs in a July court filing in the case.
District Attorney Vance is now investigating whether any state laws were broken in conjunction with the secret payoffs. Unlike the federal Justice Department, state prosecutors are not bound by the DOJ memo barring the prosecution of a sitting president.
At least part of the probe concerns whether the Trump Organization wrongfully deducted the payments as a legal expense which would violate New York State laws against filing false business records. That violation can rise to felony level — if it can be proven that the phony filing was intended to “commit or conceal another crime, such as tax violations or bank fraud.”
Access to Trump’s and his company’s tax returns would be crucial to obtain such proof, and, despite the president’s strenuous efforts to prevent his taxes from being seen by any investigative authority through numerous lawsuits, NY prosecutors are likely to prevail in any legal battle over the subpoena, given that there is no question that a crime was committed after Michael Cohen’s guilty plea.
According to The Times, Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, claims that it “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations,” but it did also say that internal company policy and professional rules prevent the company from commenting on its work. The accounting firm’s comments, however, did not rule out any legal action that the company or the clients it served would take to block the subpoena.
If the NY prosecutors are indeed successful in obtaining the subpoenaed tax returns, don’t expect the information that they contain to made public anytime soon. Under grand jury secrecy regulations, they would only become public if they were actually introduced as evidence in a criminal trial.
Anyone with an appetite for gambling can feel fairly secure that a bet that criminal charges will eventually be filed in relation to a case that has already resulted in one conviction will be a winning wager. The big question on all of this will be the timing. We will have to wait to see where in the election cycle the results of the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation and charging decisions will fall before we know how it will affect President Trump and his family business.
One thing is for certain, between now and then there will be at least one tweet from the president decrying the entire investigation as a “Fake News” “Witch Hunt.”
That’s one bet that’s 100% guaranteed to pay off.
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Vinnie Longobardo is a 35-year veteran of the TV, mobile & internet industries, specializing in start-ups and the international media business. His passions are politics, music and art.