Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Supreme Court inflicts scathing setback on Trump on tax returns


Donald Trump will have to hand over his accounting records to a New York prosecutor: the Supreme Court on Monday rejected a new attempt by the former US president to escape it, relaunching a criminal investigation that puts him at risk, ultimately, charge.

Asked by the lawyers of the former New York magnate, the Supreme Court, without comment or dissent, refused to overturn the decision of a federal judge who had ordered the accounting firm Mazars to submit eight years of tax returns and banking to Manhattan attorney Cyrus Vance, who has been asking for them for months.

The Supreme Court, which now has a majority of conservative judges, had already ordered Donald Trump in July 2020 to send these documents to the prosecutor. But the tycoon’s lawyers had re-solicited her to contest the scope of the documents requested.

“The work continues,” Cyrus Vance replied laconically in a statement.

His investigation is taking place behind closed doors before a grand jury, and the Democratic prosecutor has made virtually no public statement on his progress. No one knows when it will end, or if it will lead to prosecution, which would be a first for a former US president.

Initially centered on payments made, before the 2016 presidential election, to two alleged mistresses of the billionaire, the investigation is now also examining possible allegations of tax fraud, insurance fraud, or bank fraud, according to documents filed in court.

According to US media, investigators recently interviewed employees of Deutsche Bank – long the financial backer of Donald Trump and his holding company, the Trump Organization – and his insurance company, Aon.

They also re-interviewed Donald Trump’s ex-personal lawyer Michael Cohen, currently under house arrest serving his three-year prison sentence handed down in late 2018. He told Congress that Trump and his company were artificially inflating or reducing the value. of their assets, to alternately obtain bank loans or reduce their taxes.

“Witch hunt”

If those suspicions were true and Mr. Trump was charged, they would expose the ex-president to possible imprisonment.

Unlike federal offenses, violations of state laws cannot be pardoned by a US president, even though Joe Biden wishes to avoid fueling political tensions.

New York State Democratic Attorney Letitia James is also investigating the allegations of bank fraud and insurance fraud in civil proceedings.

Donald Trump did not immediately react to the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday. But in the past he has called the investigation “the worst witch hunt in US history.”

Breaking with a tradition well established since Jimmy Carter, the real estate developer and ex-reality TV star, who left New York for good to settle in his club in Mar-a-Lago, Florida after leaving the White House on January 20, never published his tax returns.

He often promised to do so, but never followed up, citing the need to wait until the end of a tax administration audit. His lawyers have continued to fight in court to delay the deadline.

In September 2020, The New York Times, after obtaining nearly two decades of tax documents, published a major investigation indicating that the billionaire’s business suffered big losses and pushed him into big debt.

According to the newspaper, Donald Trump avoided paying federal taxes for 11 of the 18 years of records obtained, and paid only $ 750 in 2016 and 2017.

In addition to this investigation by Mr Vance, the 74-year-old ex-president – recently acquitted by the US Senate after an impeachment trial for incitement to insurgency in the Jan.6 attack on the Capitol – faces serious challenges. multiple legal attacks.

Most of the actions brought against him take place in civil courts.

A Georgia prosecutor, however, announced in early February the opening of a preliminary investigation into “attempts to influence electoral operations in Georgia”, a key state where Donald Trump has increased pressure on electoral officials to challenge his presidential defeat.



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