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Thursday, March 4, 2021

Supreme Court says Manhattan prosecutors CAN get Donald Trump’s tax returns

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain former President Donald Trump‘s tax returns and other financial records as part of a criminal investigation, a blow to his quest to conceal details of his finances.

The justices rebuffed Trump’s request to put on hold an October 7 lower court ruling directing the former Republican president’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat. 

The ruling does not make Trump’s tax records public.

They are not supposed to become public as part of the prosecutors’ investigation, but the high court’s action is a blow to Trump because he has for so long fought on so many fronts to keep his tax records shielded from view. 

By rejecting the case without a hearing, the justices do not disclose whether the court was split on taking the case, although at times justices who want to take a case but have been outvoted will make public their dissent.

The ongoing investigation the records are part of could also become an issue for Trump in his life after the presidency. 

Trump has called it ‘a fishing expedition’ and ‘a continuation of the witch hunt – the greatest witch hunt in history.’ 

Blow: The Supreme Court ruling means a Manhattan grand jury must be provided with Trump's tax returns by his longtime accounting firm Mazars USA

Blow: The Supreme Court ruling means a Manhattan grand jury must be provided with Trump’s tax returns by his longtime accounting firm Mazars USA

Hand them over: Only a tiny portion of Donald Trump's tax returns have ever seen the light of day but Manhattan DA Cy Vance now has the approval of the Supreme Court to subpoena the ex-president's longtime accounting firm for them.

Hand them over: Only a tiny portion of Donald Trump’s tax returns have ever seen the light of day but Manhattan DA Cy Vance now has the approval of the Supreme Court to subpoena the ex-president’s longtime accounting firm for them. 

Stepping up investigation: Cy Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney has hired a high-profile former prosecutor who led the case against John Gotti and who just re-interviewed Michael Cohen, Trump's one-time Mr. Fix-it

Stepping up investigation: Cy Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney has hired a high-profile former prosecutor who led the case against John Gotti and who just re-interviewed Michael Cohen, Trump’s one-time Mr. Fix-it

Vance’s office had said it would be free to enforce the subpoena and obtain the records in the event the Supreme Court declined to step in and halt the records’ turnover, but it was unclear when that might happen.

The case the high court ruled in involves a grand jury subpoena for more than eight years of Trump’s personal and corporate tax records. 

Vance has disclosed little about what prompted him to request the records. In one court filing last year, however, prosecutors said they were justified in demanding the records because of public reports of ‘possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.’

Part of the probe involves payments to two women – porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal – to keep them quiet during the 2016 presidential campaign about alleged extramarital affairs with Trump. Trump has denied the affairs.

In July, the justices in a 7-2 ruling rejected Trump’s argument that the president is immune from investigation while he holds office or that a prosecutor must show a greater need than normal to obtain the tax records.

Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, whom Trump nominated to the high court, joined that decision. It was issued before Trump’s third nominee, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court.

As part of its July decision, the high court returned the Vance case and a similar case involving records sought by Congress to lower courts. And the court prevented the records from being turned over while the cases proceeded.

Since the high court’s ruling, in the Vance case, Trump’s attorneys made additional arguments that his tax records should not be turned over, but they lost again in federal court in New York and on appeal. It was those rulings that Trump had sought to put on hold. 

The Supreme Court waited months to act in the case. The last of the written briefs in the case was filed October 19. But a court that includes three Trump appointees waited through the election, Trump’s challenge to his defeat and a month after Trump left office before issuing its order.

The court offered no explanation for the delay, and the legal issue before the justices did not involve whether Trump was due any special deference because he was president. 

Vance has hired a high-profile attorney with decades of experience with white collar crime cases as it ramps up its investigation.

Mark Pomerantz, a former prosecutor for the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, joined Vance’s team as a special assistant district attorney earlier this month.  

Pomerantz has already hit the ground running, conducting an interview with Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen last Thursday, Reuters reported.  

His hiring is part of a flurry of recent activity in Vance’s investigation into the Trump family business, a probe which has been open for two and a half years. 

Pomerantz, 69, has long been called a leading figure in New York legal circles, having served as chief of the criminal division in the US Attorney’s Office for SDNY from 1997 to 1999 before moving into private practice with the law firm Paul Weiss. 

As a private attorney, Pomerantz has regularly represented major companies and officials in state and federal prosecutions, including cases brought by the US Department of Justice. 

He has handled matters involving charges of corporate misconduct, financial fraud, tax crimes and violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), a federal law used to prosecute organized crime and ongoing criminal activities.

The attorney is credited with helping form the legal definition of racketeering in a RICO case he defended in 1988, according to the New York Times.  

Pomerantz launched his career with two impressive clerkships, with Judge Edward Weinfeld in Manhattan and Justice Potter Stewart on the Supreme Court.

He went on to serve as a federal prosecutor for the US Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, where he rose through the ranks to lead the appellate unit. 

Pomerantz left the US Attorney’s Office in 1982 for private practice, where he worked on more than two dozen cases involving organized crime at a time when prosecutors dramatically escalated efforts to put Mafia bosses behind bars.  

The Manhattan district attorney's office hired Mark Pomerantz (pictured in 2008), a high-profile attorney with decades of experience with white collar crime cases, this month as it ramps up its investigation into Donald Trump's business dealings

The Manhattan district attorney’s office hired Mark Pomerantz (pictured in 2008), a high-profile attorney with decades of experience with white collar crime cases, this month as it ramps up its investigation into Donald Trump’s business dealings

Pomerantz interviewed Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen (pictured) last week

Pomerantz interviewed Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen (pictured) last week

He returned to SDNY in the late 90s to oversee more major organized crime and securities fraud cases, including the prosecution of Gambino boss John A Gotti. 

Pomerantz left the SDNY again in 2000 to join Paul Weiss. One of his biggest cases to date was defending then-senator Robert Torricelli (D – New Jersey) against allegations of campaign finance violations in 2002. 

His experience in both prosecuting and defending white collar criminals will likely prove invaluable to Vance’s office in its investigation of Trump. 

‘He worked both sides of the street, so he’s not going to be biased by virtue of temperament,’ Robert S Litt, a former general counsel for the Director of National Intelligence who has known Pomerantz since the 70s, told the Times. 

Vance also recently issued roughly a dozen new subpoenas in its investigation of Trump, two sources close to the probe told Reuters last week.   

One of the subpoenas went to Ladder Capital Finance LLC, a major creditor used by Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, to finance the former president´s commercial real estate holdings, the sources said.

Vance’s office has also conducted interviews with Ladder’s staff, one source familiar with the matter said. Ladder did not reply to requests for comment.

The district attorney’s office has said little publicly about the probe, but noted in court filings that the investigation was focused on ‘possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct’ at the Trump Organization, including alleged falsification of records, and insurance and tax fraud. It is the only known criminal inquiry into Trump’s business practices.

Separately, New York state Attorney General Letitia James is leading a civil probe into whether Trump’s company falsely reported property values to secure loans and obtain economic and tax benefits.

Both investigations are examining whether Trump’s company placed artificially high values on several major commercial properties in documents used to secure favorable loan arrangements, while diminishing the value of those properties in filings used as a basis for calculating its tax bills.

Cohen’s interview with Pomerantz – his fifth interview with Vance’s office – was not previously reported and it is unclear precisely what issues were covered. But it signals intense interest in Cohen’s intimate knowledge of the financial affairs of the Trump Organization.

Cohen declined to comment. A representative for Trump and a lawyer for the Trump Organization did not respond to requests for comment.

In court filings, the Trump Organization has denied that the company inflated assets. Trump, a Republican, has described the New York investigations as politically motivated. Vance and James are both Democrats.

Cohen, who describes himself as Trump’s longtime, do-anything fixer, is in home confinement serving a three-year sentence on charges related to payoffs he made during the 2016 presidential race to buy the silence of two women who alleged they had affairs with Trump.

Under a plea deal, Cohen cooperated extensively with prosecutors – an arrangement that also would help protect him against further prosecution for evidence he provides in the Vance probe.

Cohen, a potential high-profile witness for Vance, pleaded guilty in 2018 to charges in the hush-money case, as well as allegations of lying to Congress about negotiations concerning a proposed Trump Tower in Moscow, a project that never materialized.

‘I think Cohen may be more valuable than people are giving him credit for,’ said Daniel Alonso, Vance’s top deputy from 2010 to 2014 and now in private practice.

‘He obviously has committed perjury. He has credibility issues. But the perjury he committed was allegedly at the behest of Donald Trump, at least tacitly. I don’t think that calling Cohen a perjurer ends the story, because that opens the door to the explanation of why he perjured himself.’

This post was first published on DailyMail.

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