Former SDNY prosecutors stunned by DOJ's effort to block grand jury subpoena of Trump’s tax records: This ‘has Bill Barr written all over it’
Democrats at both the federal and state levels have been longing to see President Donald Trump’s tax returns. But federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York, according to Law & Crime, are seeking to block a New York State grand jury’s demand for them.
The grand jury is seeking no less than eight years’ worth of Trump’s business and personal financial records. Trump, in response, filed a federal lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order that sought to prevent the accounting firm Mazars USA from having to comply with the demand — and the Southern District is asking a judge to issue such a restraining order.
This puts federal Southern District of New York prosecutors at odds with New York State prosecutors. Geoffrey S. Berman, a federal prosecutor for the Southern District, believes that Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s subpoena of Trump’s tax returns should not be enforced. And in a three-page statement submitted by Berman, the Southern District noted the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) policy against criminal prosecutions of a sitting U.S. president — which is the same policy that former Special Counsel Robert Mueller cited after delivering his final report for the Russia investigation. Mueller, contrary to the claims of the Trump White House, never said the Mueller Report was a total vindication of Trump on obstruction of justice — only that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted under DOJ policy.
In their statement, Southern District prosecutors noted, “The United States has the authority ‘to attend to the interests of the United States in (any) suit pending in a court of the United States. Plaintiff’s complaint raises a number of significant constitutional issues that potentially implicate the interests of the United States.”
The Southern District prosecutors added “Article II, the Supremacy Clause, and the structure of the Constitution preclude subjecting a sitting president to state criminal process, including grand jury subpoenas directed at the president or his agents.”
Legal expert Joyce White Vance — a frequent MSNBC contributor, University of Alabama law professor and former federal prosecutor — weighed in on the Southern District’s actions. Vance wrote, “Because this is confusing, here’s the cliff notes: Trump filed a lawsuit using his own lawyers to keep Manhattan DA from getting his taxes for use in a criminal investigation. Now, DOJ/SDNY says it’s thinking about intervening in the case to argue in Trump’s favor.”
Vance also found it strange that federal prosecutors for the Southern District of New York would intervene in a grand jury subpoena, tweeting, “I can’t recall, as a U.S. attorney, trying to block a fellow prosecutor in my state from proceeding with a grand jury investigation. Yes, DOJ policy is that DOJ can’t indict a sitting POTUS. This week, DOJ is willing to argue he can’t even be investigated — and now, that they believe the Constitution prohibits a state prosecutor from investigating or indicting a sitting president.”
Vance went on to assert, “If SDNY intervenes, it will be to ensure Trump remains above the law, and his taxes can’t be reviewed like those of any other citizen under investigation.”
Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor for the Southern District who is now a legal analyst for CNN, was even more biting in his reaction.
“As a proud SDNY alum, I’ll say it: if the SDNY, in fact, takes this position, it will be an embarrassment and mark a low point in the SDNY’s history of independence,” Honig tweeted.
Mimi Rocah, another former Southern District prosecutor, is wondering if Attorney General William Barr had a hand in the Southern District’s decision — which Rocah said “has Bill Barr written all over it.” Barr, according to Rocah, “He is using DOJ to try and protect Trump. Again.”
4/ I can't recall, as a US Atty, trying to block a fellow prosecutor in my state from proceeding with a grand jury… https://t.co/XPvbYXxdKf— Joyce Alene (@Joyce Alene)1569372368.0
@JoyceWhiteVance As a proud SDNY alum, I’ll say it: if the SDNY in fact takes this position, it will be an embarras… https://t.co/jvR06vV42F— Elie Honig (@Elie Honig)1569374835.0
This has Bill Barr written all over it. He is using DOJ to try & protect Trump. Again. https://t.co/SZlfuVW4RE— Mimi Rocah (@Mimi Rocah)1569411227.0