8 Years of Trump Tax Returns Are Subpoenaed by Manhattan D.A.

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE NEW YORK TIMES)

 

8 Years of Trump Tax Returns Are Subpoenaed by Manhattan D.A.

Investigators demanded the president’s personal and corporate tax returns as they examine hush money paid to Stormy Daniels.

ImageA lawyer for the Trump Organization last month called the investigation politically motivated “harassment of the president, his family and his business, using subpoenas as weapons.” 
CreditCreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York Times

State prosecutors in Manhattan have subpoenaed President Trump’s accounting firm to demand eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

The subpoena opens a new front in a wide-ranging effort to obtain copies of the president’s tax returns, which Mr. Trump initially said he would make public during the 2016 campaign but has since refused to disclose.

The subpoena was issued by the Manhattan district attorney’s office late last month, soon after it opened a criminal investigation into the role that the president and his family business played in hush-money payments made in the run-up to the election.

Both Mr. Trump and his company reimbursed Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer and fixer, for money Mr. Cohen paid to buy the silence of Stormy Daniels, a pornographic film actress who said she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The president has denied the affair.

It was unclear if the broad scope of the subpoena indicated that the office had expanded its investigation beyond actions taken during the 2016 campaign. A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., declined to comment.

The state prosecutors are seeking a range of tax documents from the accounting firm, Mazars USA, including Mr. Trump’s personal returns and those of his business, the Trump Organization. The subpoena seeks federal and state returns for both the president and the company dating back to 2011, the people said.

The investigation by Mr. Vance has been focused on $130,000 that Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, just before the election. Mr. Cohen pleaded guilty last year to breaking federal campaign finance laws and received a three-year prison sentence.

While the federal prosecutors who charged Mr. Cohen stated in a court filing in July that they had “effectively concluded” their inquiry into possible crimes committed by the company or its executives, Mr. Vance’s office is exploring whether the reimbursements violated any New York state laws.

In particular, the state prosecutors are examining whether the company falsely accounted for the reimbursements as a legal expense. In New York, filing a false business record can be a crime.

But it becomes a felony only if prosecutors can prove that the false filing was made to commit or conceal another crime, such as tax violations or bank fraud. The tax returns and other documents sought from Mazars could shed light on whether any state laws were broken. Such subpoenas also routinely request related documents in connection with the returns.

Democrats have insisted for years that Mr. Trump release his tax returns, which every modern presidential nominee has done before him. They contend that the president may be trying to conceal details of his actual financial worth, the source of his wealth and possible conflicts of interest involving his business partners.

Congressional Democrats have taken an aggressive approach, subpoenaing six years of Mr. Trump’s tax returns from the Treasury Department, as well as personal and corporate financial records from Deutsche Bank, Capital One and Mazars USA.

The president has fought back to keep his finances under wraps, challenging the subpoenas in federal court. He has also sued to block a New York State law, passed this year, that authorized state officials to provide his state tax returns in response to certain congressional inquiries. By tying up the requests in court, Mr. Trump’s team has made it diminishingly likely that Democrats in Washington will get the chance to review them before the election next year.

But it may be more difficult to fend off a subpoena in a criminal investigation with a sitting grand jury, as there is in Manhattan. It is possible the Trump Organization could try to negotiate with the district attorney’s office to narrow the scope of the subpoena.

Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, and Marc L. Mukasey, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, both declined to comment.

Asked whether the company would seek to quash the subpoena, Mazars USA said in a statement that it “will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations,” adding that the company was prohibited by its policy and professional rules from commenting on its work. The statement, however, did not directly address whether the company might take any legal action to block the subpoena.

Even if the Manhattan district attorney’s office is successful in obtaining the president’s tax returns, the documents would be covered by secrecy rules governing grand juries, meaning they would not become public unless they were used as evidence in a criminal case.

At the beginning of August, the state prosecutors also subpoenaed the Trump Organization, seeking documents related to the payment to Ms. Daniels and the reimbursement to Mr. Cohen. With few legal options, the Trump Organization has been complying with that subpoena.

Still, the company has derided the investigation by Mr. Vance, a Democrat, as politically motivated.

“It’s just harassment of the president, his family and his business, using subpoenas as weapons,” Mr. Mukasey said last month.

As part of its investigation, prosecutors from Mr. Vance’s office visited Mr. Cohen in prison in Otisville, N.Y., to seek assistance with their investigation, according to people briefed on the meeting, which was first reported by CNN.

Mr. Cohen also helped arrange for American Media Inc., the publisher of The National Enquirer, to pay Karen McDougal, a Playboy model who also said she had an affair with the president. Prosecutors in the district attorney’s office subpoenaed American Media in early August, as well as at least one bank.

The investigation is not the first time Mr. Vance’s office has focused on members of the Trump family or its business. In 2012, his office declined to charge two of Mr. Trump’s children, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr., in an investigation into whether they misled buyers interested in the Trump SoHo hotel-condominium project, a decision that resulted in criticism of Mr. Vance.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting.

Ben Protess covers the Trump administration, including its overhaul of Obama-era regulations and potential conflicts of interest arising out of the president’s personal business dealings. He previously covered white-collar crime, Wall Street lobbying and the private equity industry. @benprotess

William K. Rashbaum is a senior writer on the Metro desk, where he covers political and municipal corruption, courts, terrorism and broader law enforcement topics. He was a part of the team awarded the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for breaking news. @WRashbaum  Facebook

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At his golf courses alone, Trump reported $288 million in income in the past year

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

President Trump reported hundreds of millions of dollars in income Friday in financial disclosure forms that shed more light on his vast business holdings.

At his golf courses alone, Trump reported $288 million in income in the past year. That includes $19.8 million from his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he has spent some weekends as president.

Trump reported $37.2 million in income in the past year from Mar-a-Lago, the private Florida resort where Trump hosted the president of China and ordered missile strikes against Syria. The club has doubled its membership fee in the past year.

The Mar-a-Lago income figure was $7.4 million higher than on his previous financial disclosure filing, in May 2016.

Trump reported $19.7 million in income through mid-April at his luxury Washington hotel, which has been a center of concerns about conflict of interest because of the possibility that foreign governments can curry favor with the president by booking rooms there. The hotel opened in September.

The president reported up to $7 million in book royalties, including $1 million to $5 million from his book “Great Again: How to Fix Our Crippled America.” He reported nearly $11 million from the Miss Universe pageant and an $84,000 pension from the Screen Actors Guild.

Related: Read the full disclosure report

Trump has said that he sold all his stock holdings in June 2016 to avoid conflicts of interest. He later said he did so because it was improper to own stocks “when I’m making deals for this country that maybe will affect one company positively and one company negatively.”

The disclosure form appeared to confirm that he had sold those stock holdings. It did include income from capital gains and dividends, presumably before the stock sales.

The form, released by the Office of Government Ethics, reflects the president’s investments, other assets, income, retirement accounts and other holdings.

It is different from a federal tax return, which Trump has refused to make public and which would reveal much more about his business and financial dealings including any foreign business partners.

Federal law did not require Trump to file a new financial disclosure until next year, said Ken Gross, a Washington lawyer who has advised business executives and political appointees on finances and ethics.

“It’s particularly important that he made the voluntary filing in view of the fact we don’t have tax returns,” Gross said.

The White House said in a statement that Trump “welcomed the opportunity” to file the form “voluntarily.”

Norman Eisen, a Brookings Institution visiting fellow and former ethics lawyer for President Barack Obama, said the document is missing a great deal of valuable information.

“We still don’t know the extent or sources of foreign emoluments, the identity of all his investors, partners and financial actors involved in his businesses, the purchasers, including possibly foreign ones of his condos and other properties,” Eisen said.

Eisen is chairman of an organization involved in two lawsuits against Trump over foreign payments to his businesses, which the plaintiffs say violate a constitutional clause prohibiting the president from accepting foreign gifts, or emoluments.

Trump last released information about his finances in May 2016, as a candidate. It showed Trump was worth at least $1 billion.

Trump refused to sell his business holdings as president, as experts in government ethics urged him to do. Instead, he transferred them into a trust in his name. Any business profits will ultimately accrue to him when he leaves office.

CNNMoney’s Matt Egan, Julia Horowitz, Jeanne Sahadi and Mike Tarson contributed to this report.