On Thursday, Sept. 19, President Donald Trump decided to bring matters to court, suing his longtime accounting firm Mazars USA and Cyrus Vance, a Manhattan District attorney who subpoenaed the president’s firm for eight years of Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns in early September.
Vance and Trump’s accounting firm will be defendants of the case, which has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The complaint, filed by Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow, argues that Vance should not receive Trump’s tax returns because “’[v]irtually all legal commenters agree’ that a sitting President of the United States is not ‘subject to the criminal process’ while he is in office.” NBC News reports.
If the Constitution allowed a sitting president to be investigated for criminal wrongdoing, Trump said, local authorities would have too much power to hamstring a president’s actions. “All you need is one prosecutor, one trial judge, the barest amount of probable cause, and a supportive local constituency, and you can shut down a presidency,” the president’s complaint read, quoting law professor Jed Shugerman, according to the lawsuit made available online by CNN.
Trump argued that instead, the ability to investigate presidents was invested in Congress, which has the power to impeach and remove presidents for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” The Washington Post reported.
The president accused Vance of joining “the campaign of bad-faith investigations and harassment” against him by Democratic officials, including from two U.S. House of Representatives committees that have subpoenaed Trump’s financial records.
“Because the Mazars subpoena attempts to criminally investigate a sitting president, it is unconstitutional,” the complaint wrote. “The court should declare it invalid and enjoin its enforcement until the president is no longer in office.”
“In response to the subpoenas issued by the New York County district attorney, we have filed a lawsuit this morning in federal court on behalf of the president in order to address the significant constitutional issues at stake in this case,” the complaint continued.
“The framers of our Constitution understood that state and local prosecutors would be tempted to criminally investigate the president to advance their own careers and to advance their political agendas,” the lawsuit read. “And they likewise understood that having to defend against these actions would distract the president from his constitutional duties. That is why the framers eliminated this possibility and assigned the task to supermajorities of Congress acting with the imprimatur of the nation as a whole.”
According to Reuters, the complaint filed by Trump’s lawyers in the Manhattan federal court challenges a grand jury subpoena issued by Vance on Aug. 29 to Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA for corporate tax returns from 2011 to 2018.
“Mazars now faces a Hobson’s choice: ignore the subpoena and risk contempt, or comply with the subpoena and risk liability with the president if the subpoena is invalid or unenforceable.”