When Federal Judge Victor Marrero ruled this morning that Donald Trump’s tax returns must be turned over to the Manhattan District Attorney, he issued a wide-ranging ruling that covered a lot of ground. As Palmer Report explained, the legal battle centers around a grand jury subpoena over the tax returns, which means the grand jury is seeking to criminally indict Trump on state charges. It turns out the judge had something to say about when Trump can be indicted.
The big question about the New York grand jury is whether it’ll wait and indict Donald Trump the minute he’s no longer president (at which point he’d be immediately arrested), or if the grand jury will try to indict Trump while he’s still in office. Donald Trump’s Department of Justice is insisting that a sitting president can’t be indicted on federal charges – but the DOJ doesn’t have direct control over what the states can do. That’s why the judge’s ruling this morning is so crucial.
As flagged by a number of observers, the judge said in his ruling the DOJ’s position on not indicting a sitting president is essentially nonsense. We all know that the DOJ isn’t going to indict Donald Trump while Bill Barr is still running it. But the judge just handed significant legal precedent to New York State if it decides to try to indict Trump while he’s still in office.
We still don’t know what that would look like. Federal law enforcement probably won’t allow New York State to arrest Donald Trump while he’s still president. But if he’s indicted and he refuses to show up for his trial, it could be held without him. If he’s convicted, and the sentence includes asset seizures, that could begin while he’s still in office. It’s New York’s move now – but this ruling supercharges things.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report