NEW YORK — Three judges on a federal appeals panel appeared inclined Wednesday to reject arguments that President Donald Trump’s tax returns can’t be given to a state grand jury, with Trump’s lawyers suggesting that local authorities should even let the president get away with shooting someone.
Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals told lawyers at the conclusion of nearly an hour of arguments that the panel believed the attorneys "may be seeing each other again in Washington."
The U.S. Supreme Court will likely have the last word on whether Trump can shield himself from Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr.'s efforts to explore the president's financial records since 2011, including his tax returns.
The most colorful exchange of the hearing occurred when Judge Denny Chin confronted Trump attorney William S. Consovoy over whether he thought local authorities could go after Trump if he shot somebody on Fifth Avenue.
"Nothing could be done? That's your position?" Chin asked.
"That's correct. Yes," Consovoy answered, saying that the president would have to be impeached first.
The exchange was a reference to a claim made by Trump when he was campaigning for president in January 2016 and said support for his campaign would not waver even if he shot somebody in the middle of Fifth Avenue.
Vance, a Democrat, is conducting a wide-ranging probe that includes payments made to buy the silence of two women who claim affairs with the president before the 2016 presidential election.
The payments were made to porn star Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, a onetime Playboy centerfold. Both have spoken publicly since affairs with the president before the 2016 presidential election.
Trump appealed after a lower-court judge tossed out his challenge to Vance's subpoena of his financial records from his longtime accountant.
Trump's lawyers say the Constitution prohibits states from subjecting the U.S. president to criminal process while he's in office.
Vance's attorney, Carey R. Dunne, told the 2nd Circuit that no one is above the law and the president does not enjoy the blanket immunity he claims.
Both sides have agreed that no tax records will be demanded until court appeals are finished.
In court papers, Vance has said he's seeking financial and tax records of entities and individuals, including Trump, who engaged in business transactions in Manhattan.
Trump’s lawyers wrote in court papers that the request is unusual and requires more specific information.