DOJ asks judge to temporarily block subpoena in Trump tax lawsuit

Officials from the US Department of Justice and Manhattan US attorney’s office asked a federal judge Wednesday to temporarily block a subpoena by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for eight years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns to allow time for “appropriate briefing of the weighty constitutional issues involved.”

“The President’s complaint raises a number of significant constitutional issues that potentially implicate important interests of the United States,” the officials wrote in a court filing.

The Department of Justice hadn’t participated in the lawsuit prior to Wednesday’s filing. Trump sued the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office after it sent his longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, a grand jury subpoena seeking tax returns and related documents going back to 2011.

The district attorney’s office, led by Cyrus Vance Jr., is examining hush money paid to two women who, during the 2016 presidential campaign, alleged having affairs with Trump a decade ago. Trump has denied having affairs with both women.

Prosecutors are looking at whether the Trump Organization violated any New York state laws — including potentially filing false business records — in its effort to reimburse Michael Cohen, Trump’s former attorney, who paid some of the hush money on Trump’s behalf. Cohen is serving a prison sentence after pleading guilty in a federal case concerning the payments.

While Trump argued in his lawsuit that a criminal investigation of a sitting president is “unconstitutional,” the brief submitted by Department of Justice officials didn’t say whether they supported that position.

The Department of Justice filing did weigh in on the question of whether it is appropriate for Trump to have filed a lawsuit concerning the subpoena in federal court, rather than state court — a matter with which the office sided with the President. The brief said the federal jurisdiction is both “correct and important.”