Pass the Popcorn

A federal judge has ruled that Donald Trump must turn over his tax returns to the Manhattan District Attorney for their investigation into Trump’s hush money payments in 2015.

In particular, the judge was unamused at the argument that Trump could not be prosecuted as President:

A federal judge on Monday dismissed President Trump’s lawsuit seeking to block the Manhattan district attorney from obtaining the president’s tax returns as part of an investigation into hush-money payments during the 2016 campaign.

That decision does not mean Trump’s tax returns will be handed over immediately. Trump appealed within minutes, and an appeals court put the case on hold until it can hear the president’s challenge.

But Monday’s ruling by U.S. Judge Victor Marrero was still a broad rejection of Trump’s precedent-shattering argument in this case.

The president argued that, as long as he is president, he cannot be investigated by any prosecutor, anywhere, for any reason.

Marrero said that was “repugnant” to an American ideal as old as the Constitution: that no man, even a president, is above the law.

“The Court cannot square a vision of presidential immunity that would place the President above the law with the text of the Constitution, the historical record, the relevant case law” or any other authority, Marrero wrote.

“This Court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process,” he wrote in another section of his 75-page ruling.
It’s not often that you find the term “Repugnant” in a judge’s opinion.


The Justice Department has previously declared that presidents cannot be indicted by federal prosecutors, relying on a series of legal memos from White House lawyers going back to the 1970s.

In this case, Trump had sought to turn those protections into a more far-reaching legal shield. Citing those memos, he asserted he should have immunity not just from indictment but also any sort of investigation — and not just from federal prosecutors, but local prosecutors like Vance, too.

Additionally, there is no immunity under law for the President.  At best, there is a Justice Department policy, something that only applies to the DoJ, on this, and it has no force on local or state prosecutors.

Finally, Vance is not (yet) prosecuting a case against Donald Trump at this time, so even Trump’s assertion of immunity for prosecution do not apply.

I rather imagine that the court of appeals will rule similarly, but if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, all bets are off.

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