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Photo: Steven Ferdman/WireImage

President Trump on Thursday filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to reverse a lower court ruling compelling his longtime accounting firm Mazars USA to turn over his tax returns to the Manhattan district attorney.

Why it matters: The request, which was expected, marks a significant escalation of the president's fight to stop prosecutors and Congress from obtaining his financial records — one that will test the limits of Trump's argument that he is immune from criminal investigation while in office.

The backdrop: The legal fight over Trump's tax returns started in August when Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. subpoenaed Mazars as part of a criminal investigation into allegations that the Trump Organization made hush money payments during the 2016 presidential election to two women who had affairs with Trump.

  • Vance requested the president's tax returns and those of his family business dating back to 2011.
  • Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal lawyer, is currently serving out a three-year sentence for campaign finance violations for making a $130,000 payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels and a $150,000 payment to Playboy model Karen McDougal on the condition that they did not reveal their past relationships with Trump.
  • Vance is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsely listed its reimbursement of Cohen for the $130,000 payment to Daniels as a legal expense.

The big picture: Trump has filed at least three lawsuits to block the release of his tax returns. The president, his family and his company also filed a lawsuit against Deutsche Bank to block the bank from complying with congressional subpoenas for their business records.

What they're saying:

"We have filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to overturn the Second Circuit decision regarding a subpoena issued by the New York County District Attorney. The Second Circuit decision is wrong and should be reversed. In our petition, we assert that the subpoena violates the U.S. Constitution and therefore is unenforceable. We are hoping that the Supreme Court will grant review in this significant constitutional case and reverse the dangerous and damaging decision of the appeals court."
— Trump's lawyer Jay Sekulow

Read the filing

Go deeper: Trump lawyer argues the president can't be prosecuted for shooting someone

Go deeper

Updated 26 mins ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

Former Defense Secretary Esper sues Pentagon over book

Former President Trump and former Defense Secretary Mark Esper at the White House in 2020. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper filed a lawsuit Sunday against the Defense Department, accusing the Pentagon of "censoring" his First Amendment rights by redacting parts of his upcoming book on the Trump administration.

The big picture: Esper, who served as defense secretary from July 2019 until he was fired by then-President Trump in November last year, alleges in the suit that "significant text" is "being improperly withheld from publication" of the manuscript "under the guise of classification."

WHO warns against travel bans on southern African countries

Matshidiso Moeti, World Health Organization regional director for Africa. Photo: Sylvain Gaboury/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

The World Health Organization called on countries Sunday to not impose travel bans on southern African nations amid concerns over the new COVID-19 Omicron variant.

Why it matters: The U.S. and countries in Europe and the Asia-Pacific announced travel restrictions in response to Omicron, which was first detected in South Africa. It's since spread to several European countries, Canada, Israel, Australia and Hong Kong. The WHO noted in a statement that only two southern African nations have detected the new variant.