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Status Of Trump's Tax Cases

TONYA MOSLEY, HOST:

That New York Times report this weekend had some stunning revelations about the president's taxes, including that he paid just $750 in income tax in 2016 and 2017. This comes as the president is still waging multiple court battles to keep his financial records secret. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas joins us now to talk about those two cases.

Hi, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hi there.

MOSLEY: So it's been a while since we've actually talked about the legal fight over the president's financial records. Remind us about these cases.

LUCAS: Well, the first one relates to a subpoena issued by the House Oversight Committee, which is led by Democrats. Back in April of 2019, the committee issued the subpoena to President Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, for his financial records. The committee says it needs that information in order to consider potential legislative changes to the laws governing financial disclosures, among other things.

Now, the president sued his accounting firm to block it from handing that information over. He argued that Congress didn't have a real legislative purpose for this information and also referenced a separation of powers issues. This case went all the way up to the Supreme Court. And what the Supreme Court did was spell out what Congress and the courts needed to do before such a subpoena can be enforced. And then it sent the matter back to the lower courts to reconsider it. And that's where that case stands now.

MOSLEY: OK. So meanwhile, the Manhattan district attorney is also seeking Trump's tax records from the Mazars accounting firm. Bring us up to speed on that case.

LUCAS: Right. Vance's office subpoenaed Mazars as part of a grand jury criminal investigation. We know from court papers that the district attorney's office appears to be investigating a couple of things, looking into possible insurance or financial fraud by Trump and his businesses and also looking into the hush money payments that were made to two women who say that they had affairs with Trump, allegations that the president denies.

Now, Trump has sued to block this subpoena as well. His argument here was that as the sitting president, he was immune from criminal investigation. This case, too, went all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled this summer against the president in what it said was that he's not absolutely immune from a straight - from a state criminal subpoena issued to his accounting firm. But the court returned this matter to the lower courts in order to allow the president to raise other objections. He has done so. He continues to fight the subpoena in the lower courts. That includes last week in federal appeals court in New York, where the judges at oral arguments appeared actually skeptical of the president's arguments.

MOSLEY: With the one minute I have with you, what impact could this New York Times report have on these cases, and what happens next?

LUCAS: Well, legal experts I spoke with said this probably won't have a big impact on these cases. Neither of them, of course, is decided yet, so there's nothing preventing, say, the Manhattan DA from filing something with the court, citing the New York Times reporting. And certainly, the district attorney has referenced in earlier filings media reports about a range of potential crimes by Trump or his businesses, and this could certainly be added to that list.

Now, as for what happens next with these cases, they remain tied up for now in the appeals courts in Washington, D.C., and New York. But even if we do get a ruling in either of these cases, there's every possibility that whoever loses will appeal to the Supreme Court. So this is not a likely venue for the public to learn more about Trump's finances any time soon.

MOSLEY: That's NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas.

Thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.