Trump investigation enters crucial phase as prosecutor’s term comes to an end
NEW YORK – A long-standing criminal investigation into Donald Trump and his family business reaches a critical juncture as Cyrus Vance Jr., the prosecutor overseeing the investigation, begins his final weeks as Manhattan District Attorney.
Vance prosecutors have issued new subpoenas for files on Trump’s hotels, golf clubs and office buildings. They recently interviewed a banker employed by Deutsche Bank, Trump’s main lender. And earlier this month, they told a senior Trump leader who had come under scrutiny, Matthew Calamari, that they had no intention of indicting him in connection with the alleged tax evasion scheme that led to accusations against Trump’s company and its CFO.
The developments, described by people familiar with the matter, show that Manhattan prosecutors have moved away from investigating these tax matters and have reverted to the original focus of their three-year investigation: Trump’s statements about the value of his assets. .
In particular, the people said, prosecutors are looking to determine whether Trump or his company inflated the value of some of his properties while trying to secure financing from potential lenders. If Vance’s office concludes that Trump intentionally submitted bogus securities to potential lenders, prosecutors could argue that he has engaged in a fraud scheme.
Trump and his company have denied the wrongdoing, calling the investigation a politically motivated witch hunt led by Vance, a Democrat. His attorneys work with the office of New York State Attorney General Letitia James, also a Democrat, who is running for governor and has sharply criticized Trump.
The probe is taking place as Trump continues to wield tremendous influence over the Republican Party and flirts with another presidential race in 2024. It has yet to hamper his political stance and may even energize his base, although the investigation can also be an expensive distraction.
It’s unclear whether any new charges will be laid, but if they are, it could be difficult to prove that Trump or his company defrauded their lenders. One of the challenges is that the lenders are sophisticated financial institutions that have most likely done their own valuation of Trump’s properties without fully relying on him.
Still, Vance’s prosecutors have issued a series of subpoenas in recent months.
At least one subpoena issued this summer to Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, has requested information on how the company is valuing various assets, according to the people, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity because they did not. were not allowed to discuss the matter.
The company is resisting handing over certain documents, a matter that is the subject of a sealed litigation in Manhattan.
The Deutsche Bank employee, a banker in the division who works with Trump, also recently met with prosecutors in Vance’s office to answer questions, people said.
The bank has made hundreds of millions of dollars in loans to Trump over the years, including for its hotels in Chicago and Washington and its Doral golf resort in Florida.
Last year, during a relatively early phase of the investigation, prosecutors questioned Deutsche Bank employees about the lender’s general procedures for making lending decisions.
Last summer, prosecutors stepped away from that focus on valuations when they indicted the Trump Organization and its longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg with unrelated tax crimes involving a scheme to pay for benefits. unofficial luxury to some executives.
Vance’s office also weighed for months on whether to indict Calamari, Trump’s former bodyguard who is now the organization’s chief operating officer, for failing to pay taxes on the same guy. advantages.
But this month, after prosecutors returned to the larger investigation, they told Calamari they had “no current intention” to press charges, his lawyer said.
“We believe this is the fair and just decision,” said attorney Nicholas Gravante Jr., who argued that Calamari was not involved in the company’s finances and was relying on another employee from Trump to prepare his taxes. “What the future holds for us in terms of further investigation by the public prosecutor is an enigma.”
Vance, who has not sought re-election for a fourth term this year, initially indicated he wanted to decide whether to indict Trump before he left.
But he is running out of time.
He is stepping down at the end of this year, and prosecutors could take months to present a complex financial case like this to a grand jury if they decide charges are warranted.
And so, after more than three years of a spotty investigation into Trump, Vance may have to hand over the climax of the case to his successor, Alvin Bragg.