December 5, 2020

The Path to Trump’s Tax Records

Weather: Tropical Storm Fay is expected to bring heavy rain and wind up to 50 miles an hour, with the brunt coming in the afternoon and evening. High in the upper 70s. Partly sunny over the weekend, with afternoon thunderstorms and highs around 90.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

President Trump has largely kept his finances a secret: He has never publicly released his tax returns, overturning decades of tradition among presidential candidates.

But soon, prosecutors in New York City — where Mr. Trump came of age and where his real estate empire is headquartered — may see his financial records. In a 7-to-2 decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that he cannot block the Manhattan district attorney’s office from pursuing a subpoena for eight years of personal and corporate tax returns.

“This is a tremendous victory for our nation’s system of justice and its founding principle that no one — not even a president — is above the law,” Cyrus R. Vance Jr., the district attorney, said.

[The Supreme Court ruled that Trump cannot block the release of his financial records.]

Since his election in 2016, Mr. Trump has sparred more and more bitterly with officials in New York, many of whom he had once donated to and sought favors from. On Thursday, he turned to Twitter to attack both the state and the outcome of the case, writing, “Now I have to keep fighting in a politically corrupt New York.”

Here’s what you need to know:

Prosecutors in New York sought to investigate whether Mr. Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, had played a role in hush-money payments made as the 2016 election approached.

The president has denied involvement in any payments, and lawyers for Mr. Trump sued in September to stop his accountants from having to hand over records.

After a round of other rulings, a federal appeals panel decided in November that the accountants needed to comply with the prosecutors’ request. Mr. Trump then asked the Supreme Court to bar the records’ release.

The records would help answer questions about where Mr. Trump’s money came from and whom it was paid out to.

In 2018, for example, a Times investigation of Mr. Trump’s business records found that he had engaged in outright fraud. Tax information later showed that he had lost more than $1 billion in a decade.

Not anytime soon. The records are part of a grand jury investigation, so they aren’t likely to be available to the public until after the election in November. The actual timetable is unclear.

My colleague Adam Liptak, who covers the Supreme Court, said that doesn’t take away from the significance of Thursday’s decision.

Mr. Trump and his lawyers argued that he was immune from all criminal investigations so long as he was in office. Therefore, the court’s ruling was a major statement on the scope and limitations of presidential power, similar to landmark rulings of the late 20th century.

In a separate ruling on Thursday, the Supreme Court said that Congress, at least for now, was not privy to many of the same records that New York prosecutors are. It said that case should be returned to a lower court.

The New York State Legislature, however, passed a bill last year, called the Trust Act, which opened another path for Congress to obtain tax information.

“Nothing in today’s rulings prevents Congress from immediately using the TRUST Act to see President Trump’s tax returns,” State Senator Brad Hoylman of Manhattan tweeted. “We must protect the rule of law.”

Azi Paybarah contributed reporting.

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The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

At least 15 New York City Catholic schools will permanently close because of financial struggles related to the coronavirus. [amNY]

A giant Ferris wheel could be coming to Staten Island. Developers previously gave up on the project. [Time Out]

What we’re watching: The musician and composer Wynton Marsalis discusses how Jazz at Lincoln Center is continuing its education programs for young musicians during the pandemic on “The New York Times Close Up With Sam Roberts.” The show airs on Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 1:30 p.m. and Sunday at 12:30 p.m. [CUNY TV]

The Times’s Melissa Guerrero writes:

Although most performance spaces, museums and community centers are closed, people are finding creative ways to connect through virtual events and programs. Here are suggestions for maintaining a New York social life this weekend while keeping a safe distance from other people.

Join the youth organizer Alliyah Logan on Friday at 5:30 p.m. for a conversation about uplifting young voices. The event is part of the Black Feminist Future movement’s “Ask a Black Feminist” series.

Register for the livestream on the event page.

On Friday at 8 p.m., stream the documentary “John Lewis: Good Trouble.” A Q. and A. with the director, Dawn Porter, will follow. Proceeds from ticket sales will go to a local movie theater of your choosing.

Purchase a ticket on the event page.

On Saturday at 8 p.m., watch the Loser Lounge band’s performance to honor Aretha Franklin. The show is part of the Joe’s Pub Live! series, which streams live and archived performances.

Access the performance on the event page.

Learn how to make a creamy coconut fish curry with the chef Kia Damon on Sunday at 8 p.m. The recipe is a home-friendly version of a dish she developed at Lalito, a restaurant in Manhattan’s Chinatown that closed last year.

Purchase a ticket on the event page.

It’s Friday — what’s cooking?

Dear Diary:

It was a hot, humid night at Yankee Stadium in August 1960. I was working as a vendor selling sodas. Business was brisk, and I had lost track of how many sodas I’d sold.

By the time the seventh inning came around, I was exhausted and so, so thirsty. There was one soda left in my tray.

I looked at the soda; the soda looked back at me. That was all I needed. I decided to drink it.

As I brought the cup to my lips, I heard someone in the grandstand shouting.

“Hey, kid,” he said. “You’re drinking up all of your profits.”

— Robert Seidenstadt

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