Trump fraud investigation will not be resolved when Vance’s term ends next week

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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. ran out of time.

Even though prosecutors in his office have stepped up their long-standing investigation of former President Donald J. Trump in recent weeks, Mr. Vance is expected to step down soon without filing a complaint against Mr. Trump.

Mr Vance, a three-term Democrat who has refused to run for re-election this year, will hand the inquiry over to his successor, Alvin Bragg, on January 1. And Mr Bragg, a former federal prosecutor elected in November, will inherit what will likely be a pivotal investigation into his tenure.

At the heart of the investigation is whether Mr. Trump and his family business have inflated the value of some of his hotels, golf clubs and office buildings to obtain financing from potential lenders, people said. knowing the subject. If Mr. Trump intentionally misleads lenders about the value of his assets, he could face charges of conspiracy to defraud them.

This month, Mr. Vance’s office issued a new subpoena to Mr. Trump’s company, asking for information on the valuations, people with knowledge of the case said, a decision that came after prosecutors questioned Mr. Trump’s accountant under oath.

Prosecutors examined whether Mr. Trump and his associates at the company provided false information about property values ​​to the accountant, who compiled the data into documents the company, the Trump Organization, then shared with the lenders.

The documents, known as annual financial statements, reflect both the potential strength and danger of pursuing a criminal case against Mr. Trump. While grossly exaggerated land values ​​may implicate Mr. Trump, the statements contain warnings that accountants never audited or authenticated the data, which could strengthen his defense.

Complex white-collar prosecutions also often rely on damning emails or cooperating witnesses. But Mr. Trump doesn’t use email, and his firm’s chief financial officer Allen H. Weisselberg has resisted pressure to turn on his boss even after Mr. Vance’s office accused him of fraud tax earlier this year.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly criticized Mr. Vance for leading what the former president has ridiculed as a partisan witch hunt.

A spokesperson for Mr Bragg, a Democrat, declined to comment on the investigation other than to say the new district attorney was not notified. Mr. Bragg expects to be notified shortly after taking the oath.

The investigation, which took place in spurts over more than three years, fell into significant delays as Mr. Trump raised a series of legal hurdles.

In 2019, while still president, Mr. Trump filed a lawsuit to block a subpoena on Mr. Vance for eight years of his personal and corporate income tax returns, sparking a bitter legal battle that has reached the United States Supreme Court twice.

The court sided with Mr. Vance each time. But the Trump Organization continued to resist further subpoenas, refusing to hand over some documents and sparking another dispute that was left to a Manhattan state judge to resolve.

The judge recently took steps to resolve the dispute, a person familiar with the case said, but the outcome could not be determined.

Although senior officials in Mr. Vance’s office are due to leave on January 1, the Trump inquiry should stay on course. Mr Bragg plans to retain the leaders of the investigative team that worked on the investigation, including Mark F. Pomerantz, a senior former federal prosecutor and white-collar defense attorney, and Carey Dunne, the attorney. General of Mr. Vance.

Lawyers from the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James joined the investigation in the spring.

Mr Bragg and Ms James, a Democrat, ran for office while stressing their aggressive stances towards the former president, making statements Mr Trump is likely to claim to be proof of what he says he is a party taken political.

Ms James, who had announced her candidacy for governor, said this month that she would instead seek re-election as attorney general, citing “a number of important investigations and ongoing cases”. She is conducting a separate but parallel civil investigation into the same business practices that are under scrutiny in the criminal case and seeks to question Mr. Trump under oath next month.

Mr Trump’s attorneys said they would ask a judge to block the interrogation and on Monday they sued Ms James, accusing her of violating the former president’s constitutional rights and seeking to have him suspended completely his investigation. If Ms James can continue her investigation – and if she finds any evidence of wrongdoing – she could sue Mr Trump, his company, or both. Unlike the public prosecutor, she does not have the power to bring criminal charges.

If Mr. Trump is criminally charged, his lawyers most likely portray his lenders as sophisticated financial institutions that have carried out their own assessments of the value of his properties without fully relying on him. They may also point out that lenders actually made money in their dealings with Mr. Trump and that property valuations are subject to broad interpretation.

In July, prosecutors for Mr. Vance accused the Trump Organization and Mr. Weisselberg of orchestrating a 15-year ploy to evade tax by offering unofficial luxury benefits to senior executives. A trial in the case, which stems from the larger investigation into Mr. Trump’s statements to lenders, is scheduled for late next summer, in the middle of the 2022 midterm election.

After indicting Mr. Weisselberg in an unsuccessful attempt to secure his cooperation, prosecutors have renewed their focus on the potentially inflated valuations, particularly Mr. Trump’s statements to lenders. As part of that goal, prosecutors interviewed Mr. Trump’s longtime accountant and his former senior banker at Deutsche Bank, who gave him hundreds of millions of dollars in loans.

Mr Bragg, 48, won a tough Democratic primary in June, campaigning on a message of fairness and public safety, and won the general election in November.

The first black to be elected Manhattan District Attorney, he seeks to reshape the office, stop prosecuting a number of low-profile crimes, and engage in more rigorous law enforcement scrutiny, all while battling against an upsurge in armed violence. During his campaign, he also made a point of mentioning that he had prosecuted Mr. Trump more than 100 times while working in the state attorney general’s office.


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