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Trump, Manhattan prosecutors face off in court over tax returns

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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance subpoenaed the returns from Mr Trump's longtime accounting firm Mazars USA on Aug 29.

[NEW YORK] Lawyers for US President Donald Trump appeared in court on Wednesday to urge a federal judge to block Manhattan prosecutors from obtaining eight years of the president's tax returns as part of a criminal investigation.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance subpoenaed the returns from Mr Trump's longtime accounting firm Mazars USA on Aug 29. Earlier this month, Mr Trump sued to block the subpoena, arguing that a president is immune from criminal investigation while in office.

Federal prosecutors in New York, meanwhile, asked in a court filing late Tuesday that the subpoena be put on hold while they decide whether to take part in the case.

US District Judge Victor Marrero is scheduled to hear arguments on whether to block the subpoena on Wednesday.

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While campaigning for the presidency in 2016, Mr Trump broke with a decades-old convention of candidates releasing their tax returns publicly.

The lawsuit against Mr Vance is one of several efforts by Mr Trump to shield his personal finances from investigation.

He is separately trying to block Deutsche Bank AG from handing over his financial records, which the bank has said include tax returns and which have been sought by Democrats in Congress. A federal appeals court in Manhattan heard arguments in that case on Aug 23 and has yet to rule.

Mr Vance argued in a court filing on Monday that Trump must not be allowed to assert "blanket immunity from criminal prosecution" or from "having to respond to any routine, lawful grand jury request for information about his conduct or that of his businesses or employees before he took office."

He also said that Judge Marrero, a federal district court judge, does not have the authority to decide the case because the dispute belongs in New York state court, where a grand jury issued the subpoena.

Mazars, also named as a defendant in Mr Trump's lawsuit, said in a statement that it "will respect the legal process and fully comply with its legal obligations." It said that as a matter of policy, it does not comment on its work for clients.

The scope of Mr Vance's investigation is not publicly known.

The subpoena on Mazars came four weeks after Mr Vance issued a separate subpoena to the Trump Organisation for records of hush money payments to two women prior to the 2016 presidential election. The women, the adult film star known as Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal, have said they had sexual relationships with Mr Trump, which he has denied. 

REUTERS