The New York Attorney General and Manhattan District Attorney have opened up new avenues for sharing critical information that could expedite the indictment in the far-reaching investigation by bringing together a newly combined criminal investigation into the finances of former US President Donald Trump.
Investigators for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. and New York Attorney General Letitia James have focused on some of the same questions: whether Trump or his agents committed fraud by falsely manipulating the values of some of the signature properties of the Trump Organization and they have pushed up to secure loans from banks and write them down to lower his property taxes.
In a brief statement late Tuesday, James’ office said the Trump organization investigation has now been viewed as a criminal case and officials at Trump’s company have been briefed. She would now work closely with Vance, who has been conducting a criminal investigation into the company and its officers since 2018.
According to a source familiar with the investigation, two assistant attorneys general from James’ office are joining Vance’s team to work on the criminal investigation. The attorney general will continue to conduct a civil investigation into Trump’s finances.
Vance and James did not accuse Trump or his staff of wrongdoing, but prosecutors in both offices spent months gathering information and testimonials from bankers, accountants, real estate advisors and other Trump Organization staff who were interviewed to detail their operations and court records.
The Manhattan Attorney’s Office has the authority to handle all Manhattan crimes, including financial crime. The Attorney General’s Office is nationwide but also has a law enforcement and financial crime bureau, primarily dealing with securities and tax fraud, and with its own authority to prosecute complex financial crimes that transcend the county borders.
“What does that mean for Trump? It is clearly not good in the sense that you now have a combination of resources, information and evidence, ”said Daniel Horwitz, a business defender and former Manhattan attorney. “It’s building muscle and sharing resources.”
In a statement, Trump said he was “unfairly attacked and abused” and vowed to “overcome” any criminal prosecution. “There is nothing more corrupt than an investigation desperately looking for a crime.” Continue reading
Trump and his company’s lawyers did not immediately return requests for comment.
Vance said he was reviewing “possibly extensive and protracted criminal behavior” by the Trump organization and received millions of pages of Trump’s tax records in February after the US Supreme Court ruled that Trump did not have the right to protect them.
Trump is already facing multiple state investigations at the local, state and federal levels, including a criminal investigation in Fulton County, Georgia, where the prosecutor is investigating whether Trump violated electoral law by urging state officials to back President Joe Biden’s victory repeal in 2020 in that state. Several congressional committees are also investigating Trump’s financial affairs.
Regardless, the former president faces a number of private lawsuits related to business disputes and other charges. He is also a defendant in several lawsuits alleging he led his supporters to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 when Congress upheld the presidential election results.
“I believe charges will be brought shortly and definitely before the end of the summer,” Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen, who was interviewed by Vance’s investigators, told Reuters. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to tackling financial finance violations and other crimes, and is currently serving his three-year sentence in domestic custody.
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Both the New York Attorney General’s and Manhattan Attorney General’s investigations have shown interest in Allen Weisselberg, 73, CFO of the Trump Organization, where Weisselberg has been a trusted Trump confidant for decades, managing both his personal and business finances.
While the Public Prosecutor’s Office was conducting a separate civil investigation, Weisselberg dismissed her last summer, and the public prosecutor’s office also forced him to cooperate, according to people familiar with the investigation.
“Now you can put it all together,” said Jennifer Weisselberg. Her ex-husband, Weisselberg’s son Barry, is an employee of the Trump Organization.
“To start a lawsuit against everyone, you have to connect the dots, all the stuff that both (offices) collected, and now you can do that,” she told Reuters.
Jennifer Weisselberg has been working with investigators from both the Attorney General’s Office and the Public Prosecutor’s Office since last fall.
She said she handed over boxes of financial documents, including records of a Trump Organization apartment overlooking Manhattan’s Central Park where she and Barry lived rent-free during their marriage, and another Trump-owned apartment that Barry stayed in after the Divorce lived.
Both offices are reviewing these regulations and whether the apartments, which could be considered gifts if provided free of charge, would be properly accounted for in tax and financial records, she said.
“I think they are setting up a case against Barry to turn everyone around,” she said.
Allen Weisselberg’s attorney, Mary Mulligan, declined to comment. A Barry Weisselberg attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
One Trump property that was screened in both surveys is Seven Springs, a 212 acre property in Westchester County, New York. The attorney general’s nationwide jurisdiction could make it easier to bring charges related to this property, experts said.
After long and failed efforts to develop the property as a golf course and luxury property, Trump granted a tax break of $ 21.1 million in 2015 in the form of a conservation measure, a legal promise to leave 158 acres of the property undeveloped.
Vance has cited planning documents for Seven Springs from nearby towns, while James’ investigators have cited emails in court files from an appraiser suggesting that Trump’s agents were pressuring that figure to be increased.
“When you combine what each side has learned, they may be able to fill in a picture faster that could lead to indictments against the president,” said Claire Finkelstein, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, adding that the combination “brings more will information, more shooting power and the ability to expand the scope of a criminal investigation. “
Rebecca Roiphe, a professor at New York Law School, says James’ involvement also gives Trump an opportunity to attack the legitimacy of the investigation. When James ran for office in 2018, she criticized Trump as an “illegitimate president” and vowed to investigate his business relationships.
“That certainly creates a shadow,” she said. “The question is whether combining these two investigations would ultimately affect the legitimacy of a prosecution.”
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