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Trump lawyers: DA's fight for tax returns built on innuendo

NEW YORK – A New York prosecutor engaged in a long-running battle to obtain Donald Trump’s tax returns is resorting to “speculation and innuendo” to justify his demands, the president's lawyers argued in court papers filed Thursday on the eve of an appeals court showdown.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments Friday after a district court judge last month rejected Trump's renewed efforts to invalidate a subpoena that the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. issued to the president's accounting firm.

Trump's lawyers maintain that the subpoena was issued in bad faith and is overly broad. In Thursday's filing, they argued that aside from acknowledging an inquiry into money paid to two women who alleged affairs with Trump, Vance's office hasn't specified why it needs eight years of the president's corporate and personal tax returns.

Vance’s office argued in court papers earlier in the week that there’s “a mountainous record” of public allegations of misconduct to support its efforts to obtain Trump’s tax returns, such as news reports alleging Trump or his companies inflated or minimized the value of assets for business and tax purposes.

“But this is all misdirection,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. “(Vance) nowhere claims that his office is actually investigating any of the discredited, state, and recycled allegations of wrongdoing that are recounted in the press reports he has compiled.”

Vance's office declined comment on the latest Trump filing.

Trump’s lawyers are objecting to the breadth and scope of the subpoenas as they start the appellate process again after the Supreme Court in July rejected their initial argument that the presidency in and of itself shields Trump from the investigation.

With its decision, the Supreme Court returned the case to U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero in Manhattan so Trump’s lawyers could seek to block the subpoena on other grounds.

In addition to arguing the subpoena was issued in bad faith and overly broad, the president's lawyers also contend that the investigation might have been politically motivated and amounted to harassment.

Marrero rejected those claims, leading to the appeal being heard Friday.

Trump has called Vance’s investigation “a fishing expedition” and “a continuation of the witch hunt — the greatest witch hunt in history.”

Vance, a Democrat, began seeking the Republican president’s tax returns from his longtime accounting firm over a year ago, after Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen told Congress that the president had misled tax officials, insurers and business associates about the value of his assets.

A temporary restraining order remains in effect, preventing any tax records from being turned over at least until the latest appeal is decided. Trump has said he expects the case to return to the Supreme Court, making it unlikely the dispute will be resolved before the November election.

Even if Vance does get Trump’s tax records, those would be part of a confidential grand jury investigation and not automatically be made public.

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Follow Michael Sisak on Twitter at twitter.com/mikesisak