The Supreme Court of America has rejected a last-ditch attempt by former President Donald J. Trump to shield his financial records, issuing a brief, unsigned order requiring Trump’s accountants to turn over his tax and other records to prosecutors in New York.
The court’s order was a decisive defeat for Trump, who had gone to extraordinary lengths to keep his tax returns and related documents secret. There were no dissents noted.
The case concerned a subpoena to Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA, by the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat. The firm has said it will comply with the final ruling of the courts, meaning that the grand jury should receive the documents in short order.
Vance issued a three-word statement in response to the court’s order: “The work continues.”
Under grand jury secrecy rules, it would ordinarily be unclear when, if ever, the public would see the information. But The New York Times has obtained more than two decades of tax return data of Trump and his companies, and it recently published a series of articles about them.
Trump, the articles said, has sustained significant losses, owes enormous debts that he is personally obligated to repay, has avoided paying federal income taxes in 11 of the 18 years The Times examined and paid just $750 in both 2016 and 2017.
The scope of Vance’s inquiry is not known. It arose partly from an investigation by his office into hush-money payments to two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump, relationships the president has denied. But court filings by prosecutors suggested that they are also investigating potential crimes like tax and insurance fraud.
The subpoena sought Trump’s tax records and financial statements since 2011, the engagement agreements with the accountants who prepared them, the underlying raw financial data and information about how the data were analyzed.
As a candidate in 2016, Trump promised to disclose his tax returns, but he never did. Instead, he fought hard to shield the returns from scrutiny, for reasons that have been the subject of much speculation. In 2019, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, ruled that state prosecutors may require third parties to turn over a sitting president’s financial records for use in a grand jury investigation.
In a footnote to the decision, Judge Robert A. Katzmann said that Trump’s break with his predecessors’ practice was significant.