Tuesday Reads: Prosecutors Get Their Hands On Trump’s Tax ReturnsPosted: February 23, 2021
As you know, yesterday the Supreme Court refused to keep Trump’s tax records secret any longer; they will finally be turned over to New York prosecutors who are investigation Trump and his businesses. The New York Times: Supreme Court Denies Trump’s Final Bid to Block Release of Tax Returns.
The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a last-ditch attempt by former President Donald J. Trump to shield his financial records, issuing a brief, unsigned order that ended Mr. Trump’s bitter 18-month battle to stop prosecutors in Manhattan from poring over his tax returns as they investigate possible financial crimes.
The court’s order was a decisive defeat for Mr. Trump, who had gone to extraordinary lengths to keep his tax returns and related documents secret, taking his case to the Supreme Court twice. There were no dissents noted.
From the start, Mr. Trump’s battle to keep his returns under wraps had tested the scope and limits of presidential power. Last summer, the justices rejected Mr. Trump’s argument that state prosecutors cannot investigate a sitting president, ruling that no citizen was above “the common duty to produce evidence.” This time, the court denied Mr. Trump’s emergency request to block a subpoena for his records, effectively ending the case.
The ruling is also a big victory for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat. He will now have access to eight years’ worth of Mr. Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, as well as other financial records that Mr. Vance’s investigators view as vital to their inquiry into whether the former president and his company manipulated property values to obtain bank loans and tax benefits….
Prosecutors in Manhattan now face a monumental task. Dozens of investigators and forensic accountants will have to sift through millions of pages of financial documents. Mr. Vance has brought in an outside consulting firm and a former federal prosecutor with significant experience in white-collar and organized crime cases to drill down into the arcana of commercial real estate and tax strategies.
The Supreme Court’s order set in motion a series of events that could lead to the startling possibility of a criminal trial of a former U.S. president. At a minimum, the ruling wrests from Mr. Trump control of his most closely held financial records and the power to decide when, if ever, they would be made available for public inspection.
But the tax returns are not all prosecutors will get their hands on. Mike McIntire at The New York Times: Trump’s Tax Returns Aren’t the Only Crucial Records Prosecutors Will Get.
The New York Times last year provided more or less a preview of what awaits Mr. Vance, when it obtained and analyzed decades of income tax data for Mr. Trump and his companies. The tax records provide an unprecedented and highly detailed look at the byzantine world of Mr. Trump’s finances, which for years he has simultaneously bragged about and sought to keep secret.
The Times’s examination showed that the former president reported hundreds of millions of dollars in business losses, went years without paying federal income taxes and faces an Internal Revenue Service audit of a $72.9 million tax refund he claimed a decade ago.
Among other things, the records revealed that Mr. Trump had paid just $750 in federal income taxes in his first year as president and no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years. They also showed he had written off $26 million in “consulting fees” as a business expense between 2010 and 2018, some of which appear to have been paid to his older daughter, Ivanka Trump, while she was a salaried employee of the Trump Organization.
The legitimacy of the fees, which reduced Mr. Trump’s taxable income, has since become a subject of Mr. Vance’s investigation, as well as a separate civil inquiry by Letitia James, the New York attorney general….
The tax returns represent a self-reported accounting of revenues and expenses, and often lack the specificity required to know, for instance, if legal costs related to hush-money payments were claimed as a tax write-off, or if money from Russia ever moved through Mr. Trump’s bank accounts. The absence of that level of detail underscores the potential value of other records that Mr. Vance won access to with Monday’s Supreme Court decision.
In addition to the tax returns, Mr. Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, must also produce business records on which those returns are based and communications with the Trump Organization. Such material could provide important context and background to decisions that Mr. Trump or his accountants made when preparing to file taxes.
John D. Fort, a former chief of the I.R.S. criminal investigation division, said tax returns were a useful tool for uncovering leads, but could only be fully understood with additional financial information obtained elsewhere.
“It’s a very key personal financial document, but it’s just one piece of the puzzle,” said Mr. Fort, a C.P.A. and the director of investigations with Kostelanetz & Fink in Washington. “What you find in the return will need to be followed up on with interviews and subpoenas.”
NYT investigative reporter Suzanne Craig posted a thread with links to more stories about possible criminal activities by the Trump crime family.
Trump is not happy. He released a statement, which you can read here.
Bess Levin at Vanity Fair: Trump Lashes Out At Supreme Court Tax Returns Call Like A Man Who Knows Prison Is In His Future.
In a statement on “The Continuing Political Persecution of President Donald J. Trump,” Trump rants that he is the victim of “the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country.” Referring to the case the court ruled on, which concerns a subpoena of Trump’s accountants by Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance, who has opened a criminal investigation into the ex-president, Trump says, “This is something which has never happened to a President before,” naturally failing to mention the fact that, among past POTUSes, only Trump has a reputation as a notorious con man. Nevertheless, he incomprehensibly continues:
“[This] is all Democrat-inspired in a totally Democrat location, New York City and State, completely controlled and dominated by a heavily reported enemy of mine, Governor Andrew Cuomo. These are attacks by Democrats willing to do anything to stop the almost 75 million people (the most votes, by far, ever gotten by a sitting president) who voted for me in the election—an election which many people, and experts, feel that I won. I agree!
The new phenomenon of “headhunting” prosecutors and AGs—who try to take down their political opponents using the law as a weapon—is a threat to the very foundation of our liberty. That’s what is done in third world countries. Even worse are those who run for prosecutorial or attorney general offices in far-left states and jurisdictions pledging to take out a political opponent. That’s fascism, not justice—and that is exactly what they are trying to do with respect to me, except that the people of our Country won’t stand for it. In the meantime, murders and violent crime are up in New York City by record numbers, and nothing is done about it. Our elected officials don’t care. All they focus on is the persecution of President Donald J. Trump. I will fight on, just as I have, for the last five years (even before I was successfully elected), despite all of the election crimes that were committed against me. We will win!”
So, just to reiterate, Trump—a person who incited a violent riot in the hopes of overturning the election—believes that crimes have been committed against him, and, despite the fact that he literally tried to use the Justice Department to investigate enemies, that he is the victim of political “persecution.”
Jonathan Chait: Donald Trump Is Extremely Mad Prosecutors Will See His Tax Returns.
Donald Trump’s yearslong quest to prevent the public, Congress, or law-enforcement officials from seeing his tax statements came to a resounding end with a unanimous Supreme Court ruling. He did not take the defeat in stride. Instead, the former president released a statement that, even by Trumpian standards, brims with anger.
Trump’s response bears every hallmark of an authentically Trump-authored text, as opposed to the knockoff versions produced by his aides. It is meandering, filled with run-on sentences, gratuitous insults, and exclamation points. Trump’s position on the tax returns rests on a series of assertions, ranging from his false claim that Robert Mueller found “No Collusion” to his insistence that he actually won the 2020 election to his extremely ironic complaint that prosecutors targeting their political opponents is “fascism, not justice.” (Trump, of course, spent his presidency publicly demanding his Attorneys General investigate his political rivals.)
The statement does contain one unambiguously true point: “This is something which has never happened to a president before.” That’s correct, because every president for the past several decades has voluntarily released his financial information. Only Trump refused….
His outpouring of rage that Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance will finally have access to his financial documents suggests the only plausible reason for Trump’s evident dismay: He is very scared of being charged with crimes.
Here’s a little comedy interlude:
More stories to check out today:
The Washington Post Editorial Board: Opinion: Now Republicans are offended by mean tweets?
Axios: Scoop: Biden’s OMB Plan B.
That’s it for me. What stories are you following? Are you watching the Senate hearing on the Capitol riot?