Lawyers for President Donald Trump on Monday accused Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. of “still fishing for a way to justify his harassment of the President” in a court battle over Trump’s income tax records.
Trump’s lawyers, in a new legal filing, asked Manhattan federal Judge Victor Marrero to reject Vance’s recent request that the judge dismiss Trump’s challenge to a grand jury subpoena. That subpoena seeks eight years of the president’s tax returns and other financial documents from his accountants.
The filing accuses Vance of trying to avoid defending Trump’s challenge to the subpoena by suggesting without a sound basis that his office is investigating the president and his company for significantly more serious crimes than the accounting for hush money payments to women facilitated by the president’s then-lawyer Michael Cohen in 2016.
The filing also argues, as the lawyers previously have done, that the subpoena for Trump’s financial records from the firm Mazars USA is “overbroad in relation to an investigation” of the hush money payments.
A spokesman for Vance, when asked for comment on the filing by Trump’s lawyers, said, “We will respond in court papers.”
Trump’s lawyers in the past year have repeatedly failed to block the subpoena, both at the trial court level and appeals court level.
The U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled that presidents do not have blanket immunity from being criminally investigated by state authorities while in the White House, and thus could not use that argument to thwart the subpoena.
But the Supreme Court allowed Trump to raise new arguments against the subpoena at the trial court level.
The president’s lawyers did so in late July with a second lawsuit that argued to Marrero that the subpoena was too broad and that Vance had sought it in bad faith.
Vance in turn last week asked Marrero to dismiss that lawsuit.
His office in that filing said the lawsuit “merely regurgitates allegations and arguments this Court has rejected before.”
The filing also hinted, but did not explicitly say, that Vance is eyeing Trump and the Trump Organization for bank and insurance fraud in connection with how it valued real estate assets at different times.
That filing, which cited newspaper articles detailing claims of misvaluation by Trump’s company, was the first time that the DA’s office had suggested that its probe was that expansive and that serious.
Trump’s lawyers, in their rebuttal filed Monday, themselves suggested that Vance was trying to short circuit that case by improperly asking Marrero to dismiss the lawsuit quickly after ruling on “factual disputes over the scope of the investigation and the reason why he copied a congressional subpoena” that sought the same information sought by the grand jury’s subpoena.
The lawyers said that federal rules of civil procedure bar such an inquiry at this stage of the litigation over the new suit.
Those same rules “forbid reliance on extrinsic evidence in deciding a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim,” the lawyers argued.
“Yet the District Attorney’s motion heavily relies on a declaration submitted by a member of his staff and an assortment of newspaper articles. In short, the District Attorney inappropriately asks this Court to ignore the Federal Rules at every turn.”
The lawyers went on to say that, “At no point — in this motion or in any public filing — has the District Attorney ever claimed that the topics discussed in these reports were the impetus for his investigation or are otherwise related to it.”
They added: “Lobbing incendiary articles into the record may be sufficient to trigger a breathless news cycle, but such misdirection falls woefully short of what is needed for dismissal.”
“If anything, it shows that the District Attorney is still fishing for a way to justify his harassment of the President.”
Vance’s “motion to dismiss should be denied,” Trump’s lawyers wrote.
“The President plausibly alleges that the subpoena is overbroad and was issued in bad faith. That is the only issue before the Court at this stage. The District Attorney’s attempt to prematurely litigate the merits at the pleadings stage, including his reliance on extrinsic evidence, should be rejected.”
Trump’s lawyers in second court filing on Monday told Marrero that if he does consider the suggestion by Vance’s office that prosecutors are investigating Trump for bank and insurance fraud, the judge should compel prosecutors to outline in general terms the scope of the grand jury probe and show that the records sought bear some relation to that investigation.
Vance’s prosecutors have argued to Marrero that Trump’s suit opposing the subpoena “merely serves to delay the grand jury’s investigation.”
The prosecutors in court filings have said, “Every day that goes by is another day Plaintiff effectively achieves the ‘temporary absolute immunity’ that was rejected by this Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court.”
The DA’s office also argued that further delay increases the chance of loss of evidence and of the expiration of the statute of limitations for certain crimes.