WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday rejected a last-ditch attempt by former President Donald J. Trump to shield his financial records, issuing a brief, unsigned order that ended Mr. Trump’s bitter 18-month battle to stop prosecutors in Manhattan from poring over his tax returns as they investigate possible financial crimes.
The court’s order was a decisive defeat for Mr. Trump, who had gone to extraordinary lengths to keep his tax returns and related documents secret, taking his case to the Supreme Court twice. There were no dissents noted.
From the start, Mr. Trump’s battle to keep his returns under wraps had tested the scope and limits of presidential power. Last summer, the justices rejected Mr. Trump’s argument that state prosecutors cannot investigate a sitting president, ruling that no citizen was above “the common duty to produce evidence.” This time, the court denied Mr. Trump’s emergency request to block a subpoena for his records, effectively ending the case.
The ruling is also a big victory for the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., a Democrat. He will now have access to eight years’ worth of Mr. Trump’s personal and corporate tax returns, as well as other financial records that Mr. Vance’s investigators view as vital to their inquiry into whether the former president and his company manipulated property values to obtain bank loans and tax benefits.
“The work continues,” Mr. Vance said in a statement.
In his own lengthy statement, Mr. Trump lashed out at the Supreme Court’s decision and the investigation. He characterized the inquiry as a politically motivated attack by New York Democrats, calling it “a continuation of the greatest political Witch Hunt in the history of our Country.” He also falsely asserted, again, that he had won the 2020 election.
“The Supreme Court never should have let this ‘fishing expedition’ happen, but they did,” Mr. Trump said. He added, “For more than two years, New York City has been looking at almost every transaction I’ve ever done, including seeking tax returns which were done by among the biggest and most prestigious law and accounting firms in the U.S.”
Prosecutors in Manhattan now face a monumental task. Dozens of investigators and forensic accountants will have to sift through millions of pages of financial documents. Mr. Vance has brought in an outside consulting firm and a former federal prosecutor with significant experience in white-collar and organized crime cases to drill down into the arcana of commercial real estate and tax strategies.
The Supreme Court’s order set in motion a series of events that could lead to the startling possibility of a criminal trial of a former U.S. president. At a minimum, the ruling wrests from Mr. Trump control of his most closely held financial records and the power to decide when, if ever, they would be made available for public inspection.
The court’s ruling concerned a grand jury subpoena issued by Mr. Vance’s office in August 2019 and sent to Mr. Trump’s accountants, Mazars USA. The firm has said it will comply with the final ruling of the courts, meaning that the grand jury should receive the documents in short order. On Monday, Mazars issued a statement saying it “remains committed to fulfilling all of our professional and legal obligations.”
The crucial next phase in the Manhattan inquiry will begin this week when investigators collect a vast trove of digital records from a law firm that represents Mazars, according to people with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation, as well as former prosecutors and others who described the next steps.
Armed with the subpoena, the investigators will go to the law firm’s Westchester County office outside New York City and take away copies of tax returns, financial statements and other records and communications relating to Mr. Trump’s taxes and those…