New York prosecutors investigating former president Donald Trump’s finances have finally received his tax returns following a marathon legal battle, a spokesman said Thursday.
“Our office obtained the records on Monday,” Danny Frost, a spokesman for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, told AFP.
Vance’s office obtained the returns after the Supreme Court rejected Monday a last-ditch bid by Trump’s lawyers to block the release of the records.
The prosecutor is investigating hush payments made to two women who allege they had affairs with Trump and possible fraud.
Vance, a Democrat, fought for over a year to obtain the eight years of returns from Trump’s accountants Mazars USA.
He issued a subpoena to the firm in August 2019 ordering them to furnish documents stretching back to 2011.
But Trump’s lawyers fought bitterly to block the subpoena.
In July, the Supreme Court rejected their argument that as a sitting president Trump was immune from prosecution.
His attorneys then challenged the scope of the requested documents, saying it was too broad.
Vance’s probe was initially focused on payments made before the 2016 presidential election to two women who claim they had affairs with Trump, including porn star Stormy Daniels.
But the state-level investigation is also now examining possible allegations of tax evasion, and insurance and bank fraud.
Trump, who left the White House last month, has called the investigation “a continuation of the greatest political witch hunt in the history of our country.”
“The Supreme Court never should have let this ‘fishing expedition’ happen, but they did,” the 74-year-said following Monday’s ruling.
– Civil probe –
US presidents are not required by law to release details of their personal finances but every US leader since Richard Nixon has done so.
Trump repeatedly said he would release them pending an audit but ultimately broke with the tradition.
Vance’s investigators have interviewed Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen, who received a three-year prison term after admitting making the payments to the two women.
The ex-lawyer also testified to Congress that Trump and his company artificially inflated and devalued the worth of their assets to both obtain bank loans and reduce their taxes.
If Trump were charged and convicted he could face a possible jail term. Unlike federal offenses, state crimes are not subject to presidential pardons.
Investigators also recently interviewed employees of Deutsche Bank, which has long backed the former president and the Trump Organization, US media reported.
They spoke to staff at Trump’s insurance broker Aon, too.
Vance’s investigation is taking place behind closed doors in front of a Grand Jury, meaning the public may never see the tax records
It is unclear if and when the probe will lead to a prosecution, which would be the first of a former US president.
Ahead of the November 3 election, The New York Times alleged that Trump had avoided paying federal taxes in 11 out of the 18 years for which it had obtained returns.
The newspaper also reported that Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes in 2016 and 2017, a claim the former president denies.
New York state’s Attorney General Letitia James is also investigating allegations of bank fraud and insurance fraud through civil proceedings.