Donald Trump has suffered a major setback in his long quest to conceal details of his finances as the US Supreme Court paved the way for a New York City prosecutor to obtain the former president's tax returns and other records as part of an accelerating criminal investigation.
The justices without comment rebuffed Trump's request to put on hold an October 7 lower court ruling directing the Republican businessman-turned-politician's longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, to comply with a subpoena to turn over the materials to a grand jury convened by Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, a Democrat.
"The work continues," Vance said in a statement issued after the court's action on Monday.
Trump issued a statement describing Vance's investigation as part of "the greatest political witch hunt in the history of our country", accusing New York Democrats of expending their energy on taking down a political opponent instead of tackling violent crimes.
"That's fascism, not justice - and that is exactly what they are trying to do with respect to me, except that the people of our country won't stand for it," Trump said.
The Supreme Court's action does not require Trump to do anything. The records involved in the dispute were requested from a third party, Mazars.
A Mazars spokesman said the company "remains committed to fulfilling all of our professional and legal obligations".
Unlike all other recent US presidents, Trump refused to make his tax returns public. The data could provide details on his wealth and the activities of his family real estate company, the Trump Organization.
Reuters reported on Friday that Vance's office had subpoenaed a New York City property tax agency, suggesting prosecutors are examining Trump's efforts to reduce his commercial real estate taxes for possible evidence of fraud.
The Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees, had already ruled once in the subpoena dispute, last July rejecting Trump's argument that he was immune from criminal probes as a sitting president.
Trump, who left office on January 20 after losing the November 3 election to Democrat Joe Biden, continues to face an array of legal issues concerning personal and business conduct.
Vance subpoenaed Mazars in 2019 seeking Trump's corporate and personal tax returns from 2011 to 2018. Trump's lawyers sued to block the subpoena, arguing a sitting president has absolute immunity from state criminal investigations.
Vance's investigation initially focused on hush money paid by Trump's former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen before the 2016 election to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal. The women said they had sexual encounters with Trump, which he denied.
In recent court filings, Vance suggested the probe is now broader and could focus on potential bank, tax and insurance fraud, as well as falsification of business records.
In separate litigation, the Democratic-led US House of Representatives is seeking similar Trump records from Mazars and Deutsche Bank.