Trump Is Not Entitled to Details of Tax Returns Inquiry, D.A. Says

The Manhattan district attorney’s office said on Friday that President Trump was not entitled to learn more about the scope of its criminal investigation into his business dealings, rejecting Mr. Trump’s latest effort to block a subpoena for his tax returns.

The office of the district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., wrote in a pair of new court filings that Mr. Trump should be treated like any other recipient of a subpoena, who is typically unable to access details of secret grand jury proceedings.

The filing came in response to Mr. Trump’s renewed efforts this month to stop Mr. Vance’s prosecutors from accessing eight years of his personal and corporate tax returns.

Earlier this week, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said in a court filing that the subpoena was too broad and amounted to illegal harassment. They wrote a letter to a Manhattan federal judge asking for a hearing to discuss whether Mr. Vance’s office should be forced to disclose the justifications for the subpoena.

Mr. Vance’s office said on Friday that Mr. Trump was essentially complaining that prosecutors had never publicly revealed the full scope of the investigation. Grand jury proceedings are, by law, conducted in secret.

In limited circumstances, the recipient of a subpoena may force more details about the investigation to be disclosed through a specific legal process — but only after offering evidence that a subpoena was issued in bad faith, the office said. Even in that case, the target of the investigation likely would not learn the details, and the information would not become public.

The president “seeks an end run around this process,” the office wrote.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Vance have been locked in battle for almost a year over the demand for the president’s tax returns.

The latest back-and-forth follows a decision by the Supreme Court, which last month ruled against Mr. Trump, who had asked the court to block the subpoena. In a 7-to-2 ruling, the justices rejected the president’s argument that he was immune from all criminal proceedings while in office, but opened the door for him to challenge the subpoena on other grounds.

In their new arguments this month, Mr. Trump’s lawyers said the subpoena was so broad that it was tantamount to a political fishing expedition. Prosecutors had demanded tax documents dating to 2011.

In the letter earlier this week, Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued that the prosecutors should be required to show how each item requested in the subpoena was relevant to their investigation and within their jurisdiction.

Mr. Vance’s office has accused the president’s legal team of using delay tactics to slow the investigation until the statute of limitations on any potential crimes runs out.

When the Manhattan district attorney’s office subpoenaed the president’s accounting firm, Mazars USA, in August 2019, the investigation appeared to be focused on hush-money payments made in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election to two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump. The payments were arranged by Michael D. Cohen, the president’s former lawyer.

But this month, in response to Mr. Trump’s argument that the subpoena was “wildly overbroad,” Mr. Vance’s office said it had a wide legal basis to obtain the financial records.

The office suggested in a court filing that it was investigating the president and his company for possible bank and insurance fraud, a much broader investigation than prosecutors had acknowledged in the past.

Mr. Vance’s office wrote on Friday that the president has been “put on notice repeatedly throughout this litigation that the investigation was not limited to Cohen’s 2016 payments,” pointing to comments last year by a federal judge who called the investigation “very complex” and extending over “many, many years.”

Even if Mr. Vance were to successfully obtain Mr. Trump’s tax returns, they would be protected by grand jury secrecy rules. They might never become public unless the district attorney’s office brought charges and introduced the documents as evidence at trial.

Mr. Vance issued his subpoena after federal prosecutors in Manhattan completed their own investigation into the hush payments. The federal investigation resulted in a guilty plea by Mr. Cohen, who admitted to campaign finance violations and other crimes in connection with the payments made to the two women.

Both Mr. Trump and the company reimbursed Mr. Cohen. Mr. Vance’s investigation has been exploring, in part, whether the reimbursements violated any New York State laws.

Federal prosecutors said in a court filing last summer that they had “effectively concluded” their investigation into possible crimes committed by the president’s company, the Trump Organization, or its executives. Neither the company nor any of its leaders were charged.