Manhattan DA dropped criminal case against Trump children. Then he received a big check

Marc Kasowitz’s donations to Cyrus Vance Jr. raise questions over 2012 decision

Trump Soho, Cyrus Vance Jr. and Marc Kasowitz
Trump Soho, Cyrus Vance Jr. and Marc Kasowitz

Why did Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. abruptly drop a criminal case against Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump in August 2012? A new report suggests money may have something to do with it.

The DA’s office believed the Trump children repeatedly lied to condo buyers by inflating their sales success at the Trump Soho development, had solid email evidence to support it, and were deep into a criminal investigation, according to a joint report by ProPublica, the New Yorker and WNYC. Then, on Aug. 3, 2012, Vance dropped the case. The decision came four months after a private meeting between Vance and Trump’s personal attorney Marc Kasowitz.

A month after the decision, in September, Kasowitz contacted Vance’s campaign about hosting a fundraiser for his re-election that would raise $32,000 in January. He raised another $9,000 at another fundraiser in October 2013. And Kasowitz had also donated $25,000 to Vance in early 2012, although the DA returned that money prior to the meeting.

“We did the right thing,” Vance told the reporters. “Another five and a half months go by. Marc Kasowitz has no matter pending before the office for the Trumps or anybody else. It’s 2013 and it’s an election—and I welcome his support.” Still, Vance said he plans to return the donations.

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“I don’t want the money to be a millstone around anybody’s neck, including the office’s,” he said.

The Trump Soho case goes back to 2008. Amid a tanking real estate market, the newly built Trump Soho at 246 Spring Street was struggling to find buyers for its hotel-condo units. Donald Jr. and Ivanka repeatedly claimed that more than 50 percent of units had been sold even though that figure was widely inflated. As The Real Deal has previously reported, inflating sales numbers can give buyers a false sense of what a unit is really worth.  It also violates the Martin Act, which regulates the sale of condos like securities.

Trump’s lawyers had long told prosecutors that Donald Jr. and Ivanka’s statements might have been exaggerations but did not rise to the level of criminality. They also framed the sales disputes as simple “buyers remorse.” In August 2010, some buyers sued the Trump Organization, eventually winning a settlement. Under the terms of the deal, they agreed to state that no law was broken and that they would only cooperate with a criminal investigation if subpoenaed.

Still, the report claims prosecutors were bullish on the case, largely because they had email evidence clearly showing that Donald Jr. and others in the company were aware they had lied to buyers. [WNYC]Konrad Putzier