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President Donald Trump speaks at a meeting with business leaders on tax reform at the White House in Washington, D.C. on October 31, 2017. (Photo: Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images)

Calling Trump's Claim That He Is Above the Law 'Repugnant,' Federal Judge Orders Release of President's Tax Returns

"This is great news for anyone who cares about holding Donald Trump accountable."

Julia Conley

A federal judge in New York Monday expressed disgust at President Donald Trump's argument that as president he is immune from criminal investigations, ruling that such a claim does not shield Trump from being required to publicize his tax returns.

Judge Victor Marrero said that Manhattan prosecutors can move forward with their subpoena for eight years of Trump's personal and corporate tax returns as part of a criminal investigation into the president's reimbursement of his former lawyer, Michael Cohen, for payments to two women in the run-up to the 2016 election.

Trump's argument that he is above the law is "repugnant to the nation's governmental structure and constitutional values," Marrero said.

"This court cannot endorse such a categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process as being countenanced by the nation's constitutional plan," wrote Marrero. "The expansive notion of constitutional immunity invoked here to shield the president from judicial process would constitute an overreach of executive power."

Marrero's rejection of the president's claim, in addition to the ruling itself, garnered attention on social media.

"Someday I hope we scratch our heads at the claims of presidential immunity as some of the weirdest monarchical thinking that had somehow crept into an American system of law," tweeted progressive law professor Zephyr Teachout.

The president has spent much of his nearly three years in office shielding his tax returns from public view, and went against a four-decade precedent of releasing his tax information while running for office, as other candidates have since 1974 in the name of transparency.

Trump's refusal to publicize his financial data has raised questions, particularly amid reports that the president's longtime creditor, Deutsche Bank, was raided in connection with the Panama Papers money laundering probe and that the president engaged in suspect tax schemes for years before beginning his political career.

The federal ruling in New York came days after reporting revealed that a whistleblower alleged interference with Trump's or Vice President Mike Pence's tax returns at the IRS, which audits both officials' tax information annually.

"Obtaining Trump's tax returns remains vital to determining whether he has manipulated our tax code as much as he has sought to manipulate our democracy," Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said in a statement Friday.

Trump's lawyers said Monday they would appeal Marrero's ruling, and the president won a temporary stay of the decision shortly after it was handed down.

The temporary stay expires on Wednesday, and the president's accounting firm, Mazars USA, has been ordered to begin delivering Trump tax returns to the Manhattan district attorney's office starting at 4:00 pm that day.

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