The Justice Department on Friday filed a motion with the U.S. Supreme Court in support of President Donald Trump’s efforts to prevent disclosure of his tax returns in a battle with his home state of New York.
Solicitor General Noel Francisco’s filing comes just a week after the president’s legal team filed an appear in his individual capacity in which he seeks to overturn a lower court ruling ordering his longtime accounting firm, Mazars LLP, to turn over eight years’ worth of returns to Manhattan prosecutor Cyrus Vance.
Vance, a Democrat, says he needs to see the president’s tax returns as part of a criminal probe into him and the Trump Organization, which the president says is politically motivated.
Trump’s legal team filed an appeal of the Nov. 4 ruling by the New York-based 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That panel ruled that prosecutors have authority to enforce a subpoena seeking his personal and corporate tax returns from 2011 to 2018 that would then allow them to be seen by a grand jury.
However, allowing Vance to obtain the returns would establish a precedent that “may subject the president to highly burdensome demands for information” and “raises the risk that prosecutors could use subpoenas to harass the president as a result of opposition to his policies,” Francisco wrote in the brief.
Legal questions both parties are asking the high court to answer is whether the subpoena violates a part of the U.S. Constitution establishing the power of the president.
Trump’s lawyers have argued that under broad immunities he cannot be subjected to criminal proceedings while president.
However, if the justices decline to hear the case, the lower court’s ruling will stand and Vance will be able to obtain the returns.
The White House and its supporters also fear that the contents of the president’s returns will eventually be leaked to the media.