October 20, 2020

Trump, company could be under investigation for fraud, Manhattan DA Vance reveals


Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. could be investigating President Donald Trump and his company for possible insurance and bank fraud, the prosecutor’s office revealed Monday in a new court filing.

In the filing, Vance’s office urged a federal judge to toss out Trump’s new legal effort to prevent prosecutors from getting his tax returns and other records from his accountants through a grand jury subpoena.

Vance’s office already was known to be seeking Trump’s financial records from the accounting firm Mazars USA as part of a probe into how the president’s company, the Trump Organization, accounted for a hush-money payment to a porn star, Stormy Daniels, who says she had sex with Trump years ago. Trump has denied having sex with Daniels.

The White House, the Trump Organization and Trump’s lawyer had no immediate comment on Vance’s filing.

Trump, when asked at a White House press briefing Monday evening about the possible criminal probe of his business, said, “This is just a continuation of the witch hunt.”

The president likened the District Attorney’s possible move to other investigations involving him since his 2016 presidential run, including special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian election interference and the impeachment proceedings spurred by the House of Representatives.

“It’s Democrat stuff, they failed with Mueller, they failed with everything, they failed with Congress, they failed at every stage of the game,” Trump said.

“This is a continuation of the worst witch hunt in American history and there’s nothing that I know even about it,” Trump added. “It’s a terrible thing that they do, it’s really a terrible thing. The witch hunt has gone on long enough.”

Trump was impeached in the Democrat-led House on articles of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress; he was acquitted in the GOP-majority Senate.

The filing Monday by Vance’s office in U.S. District Court in Manhattan did not explicitly say what it is probing beyond the hush-money payment.

But the filing noted that the office is seeking up to a decade’s worth of the financial records to see if they contain evidence of other “potentially improper financial transactions by a variety of individuals and entities over a period of years.”

“At the time the Mazars Subpoena was issued, there were public allegations of possible criminal activity at Plaintiff’s New York County-based Trump Organization dating back over a decade,” Vance’s office wrote, citing news reports last year.

“These reports describe transactions involving individual and corporate actors based in New York County, but whose conduct at times extended beyond New York’s borders,” the filing said.

The filing also cited a prior court ruling which noted that the “investigation may result in ‘a favorable outcome . . . substantially related to[,]’ among other things, ‘alleged insurance and bank fraud by the Trump Organization and its officers.'”

Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen testified to Congress last year that Trump had both inflated and deflated the value of real estate assets for tax and insurance purposes.

Vance’s office in its court filing also said that Trump’s second lawsuit seeking to block the subpoena “merely regurgitates allegations and arguments this Court has rejected before.”

The president’s “‘new’ filing contains nothing new whatsoever, and [Trump] has utterly failed to make a ‘stronger showing’ of bad faith than he previously made to this Court,” Vance’s office said.

Prosecutors also argued to Judge Victor Marrero that Trump’s suit opposing the subpoena “merely serves to delay the grand jury’s investigation.”

The office said: “Every day that goes by is another day Plaintiff effectively achieves the ‘temporary absolute immunity’ that was rejected by this Court, the Court of Appeals, and the Supreme Court.”

The DA also argued that further delay increases the chance of loss of evidence and of the expiration of the statute of limitations for certain crimes.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month rejected Trump’s bid to block the subpoena, ruling that presidents do not have immunity from being investigated for crimes by state prosecutors while in office.

But the Supreme Court allowed Trump to raise other arguments opposing the subpoena at the federal district court level.

The president’s lawyers did so last week in their new lawsuit.

That suit said the subpoena “amounts to harassment of the President in violation of his legal rights,” is “wildly overboard” in the records it seeks and “is not remotely confined to the grand jury investigation that began in 2018.”

Trump’s lawyers also argue in the suit that the subpoena “was issued in bad faith.”

Trump has refused to release his income tax returns to the public, reversing more than four decades of practice by other presidents.



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