President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House Sunday after returning from a trip to New York City. Photo by Oliver Contreras/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 4 (UPI) -- A federal appellate court ruled Monday that President Donald Trump's tax returns are not immune to subpoena, as the White House has argued -- clearing a path, at least for the moment, for New York City prosecutors to seek the commander in chief's financial records.
The three-judge Second Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan ruled unanimously against Trump, saying the president has no legal grounds for a blanket ban on accessing his records
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance wants eight years of Trump's records for his investigation into hush money payments he says Trump paid to two women to keep news of their extramarital affairs secret. One includes adult film star Stormy Daniels and the other Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal.
The court said one of the reasons Vance's subpoena is lawful is that it's directed at Trump's accounting firm.
"We are not faced, in this case, with the president's arrest or imprisonment, or with an order compelling him to attend court at a particular time or place, or, indeed, with an order that compels the president himself to do anything," the court's 34-page ruling states. "The subpoena at issue is directed not to the president, but to his accountants; compliance does not require the president to do anything at all.
"We hold that any presidential immunity from state criminal process does not bar the enforcement of such a subpoena."
The court noted that Vance's subpoena seeks Trump's private tax returns and financial information -- items related to his private business, not his official capacity as president.
"These documents do not implicate, in any way, the performance of his official duties," the ruling states. "Considering the foregoing, the president has neither demonstrated that he is likely to prevail on, nor raised sufficiently serious questions going to the merits of, his immunity claim, and so he is not entitled to preliminary injunctive relief."
Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said after the ruling the president next wants to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The decision of the Second Circuit will be taken to the Supreme Court," he said. "The issue raised in this case goes to the heart of our Republic. The constitutional issues are significant."