A federal judge on Thursday said New York state prosecutors could have access to President Donald Trump’s accounting records for a criminal investigation, siding harshly against the President.
The ruling by US District Judge Victor Marrero follows a landmark Supreme Court decision this summer that appeared to set up potentially lengthy delays on subpoenas for Trump’s records. Yet the ruling on Thursday snaps attention back to the ongoing criminal probe of Trump’s business dealings, and revives the possibility that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance could reach the records before the presidential election.
“Justice requires an end to this controversy,” Marrero wrote.
Trump has already appealed. He’s asking the Second Circuit Court of Appeals for emergency help as he tries to stop the subpoena from being enforced next week.
Vance’s office has been examining whether Trump or the Trump Organization violated state laws in connection with hush money payments made to women alleging affairs with Trump. The investigation has also looked into whether business records filed with the state were falsified and if any tax laws were violated, CNN has reported.
Trump had sued Vance to stop the grand jury subpoena of his longtime accounting firm Mazars USA for years of his records. But the judge said the case was no longer valid and should be tossed from court.
Trump’s appeal came an hour after the trial judge’s decision. Previously, Vance had agreed to wait seven days on the subpoena after a ruling. The appeals court could hear Trump’s challenge and will separately have to decide if the subpoena should be put on hold.
Trump claims “consideration for ‘the Presidency itself’ requires” more delay, protecting his records from prosecutors while appeals are ongoing. Speaking at the White House late Thursday morning, Trump referred to the inquiry as a “continuation of the witch hunt,” a line he’s repeatedly used in an attempt to discredit the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with Russian efforts to interfere in the 2016 election.
But Marrero rejected Trump’s attempt to use the court system for more delays. He built into his ruling a prohibition for Trump to revise his lawsuit as a way to keep it alive even if he’s lost additional rounds in court.
Trump’s legal strategy to “enable the clock to run,” Marrero wrote, “amounts to absolute immunity through a back door, an entry point through which not only a President but also potentially other persons and entities, public and private, could effectively gain cover from judicial process.”
Vance’s office has said it seeks the accounting records for an investigation into the Trump Organization that spans years and includes looking into the hush money payments that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen secured for women during the 2016 campaign. The women alleged they had affairs with Trump, which Trump denies. Cohen had also publicly accused Trump of inflating his assets to banks and insurers, and the district attorney has interviewed Cohen.
The subpoena asked for records from Mazars related to Trump, the Trump Organization, his foundation and several related subsidiaries. The requested documents, court records said, pertain not just to business in New York, but also in other states like Florida and California, countries including Turkey, Canada and Indonesia, as well as Dubai.
Trump had claimed the state grand jury’s subpoena was too broad and that he should be protected from criminal investigation as President with sweeping immunity. Marrero called that argument “as unprecedented and far-reaching as it is perilous to the rule of law and other bedrock constitutional principles on which this country was founded and by which it continues to be governed.”
The judge also rejected accusations that Vance’s subpoena served to help Democrats who have wanted to expose Trump’s tax returns for political reasons.
“While the Mazars Subpoena may well have been issued for that particular purpose, the lack of specific facts tying the Mazars Subpoena to those politicians prevents the Court from reasonably inferring that the Mazars Subpoena reflects an effort to advance the Democrats’ goals rather than legitimate ones,” his opinion said.
House Democrats separately subpoenaed the same set of Trump accounting records as Vance from Mazars. Trump’s challenge to the congressional probe is still unresolved in Washington, DC’s federal trial court following the Supreme Court’s ruling.
CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that Dubai is a city. It has also been updated with additional reporting and background.