President Trump took aim at the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Thursday, saying in new court papers that prosecutors were using “speculation and innuendo” to justify an unfair subpoena seeking eight years of his tax returns.
The district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., began investigating Mr. Trump and his business practices more than two years ago and was thought to have been examining payments made to two women who said they had had affairs with the president.
But prosecutors have since hinted in court filings that the inquiry is much broader and could focus on a range of financial crimes, including tax and insurance fraud. They have cited multiple news reports that alleged misconduct by Mr. Trump or his companies as possible grounds for a wide grand jury inquiry. The prosecutors have said that Mr. Trump’s tax returns are central to the inquiry.
Lawyers for the president, who are trying to block the subpoena, dismissed the suggestion of a broader investigation as “a useful public-relations tactic.”
“The district attorney nowhere claims that his office is actually investigating any of the discredited, stale, and recycled allegations of wrongdoing that are recounted in the press reports he has compiled,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote in the new court filing.
Mr. Vance, a Democrat, and his prosectors have refused to detail the focus of the investigation publicly, citing grand jury secrecy rules. Instead, court filings have relied on the news articles to show what potential crimes a grand jury might have reason to investigate.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers argued those explanations fall short. “The district attorney resorts to speculation and innuendo in order to create a misimpression that his office has undertaken an investigation broad enough to somehow justify the abusive subpoena,” they wrote.
Mr. Vance’s office had no comment on Thursday.
The subpoena was issued in August 2019 by Mr. Vance’s office to Mr. Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars USA. Since then, the president and Mr. Vance have been locked in a legal battle over whether Mr. Vance may obtain the tax returns.
The president’s filing came on the eve of oral arguments scheduled for Friday before a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Mr. Trump has asked the appeals court to overturn a ruling last month by Judge Victor Marrero of Federal District Court in Manhattan, who dismissed the president’s attempt to block the subpoena.
Mr. Trump has tried several arguments to convince the courts to block the subpoena. He first sued last year, arguing that as a sitting president, he was immune from criminal investigation — a position Judge Marrero rejected.
Mr. Trump appealed and ultimately took the case to the Supreme Court, which in July issued a landmark decision against the president’s position. But the court said Mr. Trump could go back to the lower court and raise objections on other grounds, like the scope and relevance of the subpoena.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers returned before Judge Marrero, arguing that the subpoena was politically motivated and overbroad — “so sweeping that it amounts to an unguided and unlawful fishing expedition,” they wrote.
In August, Judge Marrero again ruled against Mr. Trump. The judge observed that the president’s lengthy legal fight could mean the statute of limitations could expire on some possible crimes, effectively bringing him the immunity to which the Supreme Court had said he was not entitled.
“Justice requires an end to this controversy,” Judge Marrero wrote.
Reacting to that ruling at the time, Mr. Trump said he expected the dispute to again reach the Supreme Court. “This is a continuation of the witch hunt, the greatest witch hunt in history,” he said.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers, in their filing on Thursday, argued that the president had not yet had a fair chance to test the legality of the subpoena and reiterated a longstanding request for more information about Mr. Vance’s inquiry.
“The Supreme Court remanded this case to the district court so the president could raise fact-specific challenges to the Mazars subpoena,” Mr. Trump’s lawyers wrote. “But he wasn’t given that opportunity.”
Although the Second Circuit is expected to rule quickly, either party may then go to the Supreme Court, and it is unclear if the dispute will be decided in advance of the Nov. 3 presidential election.