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President Trump Doesn't Need To Release His Tax Returns — For Now

Updated at 10:59 a.m. ET

A federal appeals court has granted President Trump a temporary stay of decision, and he will not have to turn over his tax returns to the Manhattan district attorney.

Earlier on Monday, a federal judge in New York ruled that Trump's longtime accounting firm must turn over eight years of tax returns as part of a criminal probe of his business dealings. The president's personal attorneys immediately filed a notice of appeal.

In the earlier ruling, Judge Victor Marrero said he could not endorse such a "categorical and limitless assertion of presidential immunity from judicial process."

The ruling comes as part of a criminal investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. into alleged hush money the Trump Organization paid to two women who claimed they had extramarital affairs with Trump before he took office. The president has denied those accusations.

Defying long-standing political custom, Trump refused to release his tax returns as a presidential candidate and has continued to keep the returns under wraps while serving in the White House.

Trump's former attorney Michael Cohen — who is in prison for campaign finance violations — testified before Congress earlier this year that the Trump Organization paid him $350,000 as reimbursement for paying the women. Cohen brought receipts to Congress to back up his claims.

"And these include a copy of a check Mr. Trump wrote from his personal bank account, after he became president, to reimburse me for the hush money payments I made to cover up his affair with an adult film star and to prevent damage to his campaign," Cohen testified.

The Trump Organization said the money was a retainer.

The Manhattan DA is investigating whether this is a falsification of business records, which is a crime in New York.

The president's lawyers have argued that the probe is politically motivated and that he is immune from any criminal prosecution as long as he's president.

Trump responded via Twitter, saying "The Radical Left Democrats have failed on all fronts, so now they are pushing local New York City and State Democrat prosecutors to go get President Trump. A thing like this has never happened to any President before. Not even close!"

The Manhattan court battle is part of an effort to pry loose Trump's tax returns. Democrats in Congress are suing the Treasury Department for six years' worth of his tax returns under a provision that requires the IRS to hand over any taxpayer's filings to Congress.

California enacted a law to require presidential candidates to disclose their taxes if they wanted to be on the state's primary ballot, but a federal judge blocked the law.

Democrats have long claimed that Trump's tax returns could reveal whether Trump's business dealings as a candidate and president reveal conflicts of interest.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Corrected: October 7, 2019 at 12:00 AM EDT
A previous Web summary of this story incorrectly said a federal appeals court issued a ruling in the case. In fact, the court issued a stay of decision.
Tanya Ballard Brown is an editor for NPR. She joined the organization in 2008.