Trump Org may be focus of broader fraud investigation by Manhattan DA

Subpoena for tax returns previously appeared to focus on 2016 “hush payments”

New York /
Aug.August 04, 2020 09:30 AM
President Donald Trump and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (Trump by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Image; Vance by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance (Trump by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Image; Vance by Kevin Hagen/Getty Images)

In its efforts to compel President Trump’s accountants to hand over his tax returns, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s office has indicated that the scope of its investigation is wider than previously thought.

While the grand jury inquiry previously appeared to focus on hush-money payments made by the Trump campaign prior to the 2016 election, a new filing from Vance’s office cites news reports regarding a much broader range of the Trump Organization’s business practices.

The subpoena order for the tax returns from accounting firm Mazars USA is neither unusual nor improper “in light of these public reports of possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization,” the filing said. Prosecutors are seeking eight years of the president’s personal and corporate tax returns.

While objection from Trump’s lawyers to the subpoena “rests on the false premise that the grand jury’s investigation is limited to so-called ‘hush-money’ payments,” the court “is already aware that this assertion is fatally undermined by undisputed information in the public record,” prosecutors said.

Because the grand jury inquiry is conducted in secret by law, the prosecutors did not explicitly explain the focus of their investigation. These secrecy rules mean that even if the subpoena is successful, the documents are unlikely to be made public unless criminal charges are brought.

News reports cited in the filing include reports on the congressional testimony of former Trump “fixer” Michael Cohen, and reports that Trump inflated the values of his properties when seeking loans.

“The prosecutor is just doing what he has to do in order to suggest this is a broad white-collar investigation, which generally justifies fairly broad subpoenas to financial institutions,” New York Law School professor Rebecca Roiphe told the New York Times. “They could be going on a totally different tangent.”

When asked about the investigation at a White House briefing, the president called it a “continuation of the worst witch hunt in American history” and “a terrible thing that they [Democrats] do.” [NYT] — Kevin Sun


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