NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Justice Department lawyers urged a federal judge Wednesday not to rush to judgment in deciding whether an accounting firm should be allowed to turn over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to state prosecutors.
The lawyers weighed in on jurisdictional issues in an ongoing effort by Trump to nullify a grand jury subpoena seeking the records from his longtime accounting firm.
The announcement last week by federal prosecutors that they might want to have a role in the case came just hours before a judge was to decide whether to temporarily block the turning over of the records.
They did not indicate then whether they might submit written arguments to support Trump’s claims that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. should not be allowed to see the records as part of a criminal probe stemming in part from the Trump Organization’s involvement in buying the silence of two women who claimed to have had affairs with the president.
On Wednesday, though, five Washington Justice Department lawyers and officials were listed as submitting arguments that pertained to procedural matters. They said the judge should “support interim relief as necessary to allow for appropriate briefing of the weighty constitutional issues involved.”
The name of Manhattan’s U.S. attorney, Geoffrey S. Berman, and Jeffrey Oestericher, chief of the office’s civil division, were listed on the final page as well.
The Justice Department lawyers said U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero should retain jurisdiction of the case, rather than let a state court decide any issues. Vance, a Democrat, has said any dispute should be decided in state court.
Trump’s lawyers have said the investigation is politically motivated and the quest for his tax records should be stopped because he is immune from any criminal probe as long as he is president.
Attorneys for Vance counter that Trump’s immunity should not interrupt a probe that includes a look into the actions of individuals and businesses other than Trump, especially since the statute of limitations is in play.
Congress is authorized by the Constitution to investigate presidents and remove them from office, but the law is unclear as to whether a sitting president can be indicted and prosecuted in a state or federal court.
Vance launched his probe after federal prosecutors in Manhattan completed their investigation into payments that Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, arranged to be paid to porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal to keep them silent during the presidential race. The Trump Organization later reimbursed Cohen.