Posts tagged with "Trump Organization"

CFO Allen Weisselberg to testify at Trump Organization tax-fraud trial set to begin in New York

October 25, 2022

The criminal tax-fraud trial of the Trump Organization was scheduled to begin with jury selection on Monday, October 24—offering a rare look into an opaque company that prosecutors say illegally paid some executives in cars, apartments, and cash, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office alleges that former President Donald Trump’s family business effectively kept two sets of books. In internal records, the company recorded perks—including Mercedes-Benz cars for Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg and his wife, and private-school tuition for his grandchildren—as employee compensation.

But Weisselberg and the company didn’t report the benefits to tax authorities, prosecutors said.

Trump and his family members weren’t charged, although the indictment alleges that the former president signed some checks for private-school tuition. Trump isn’t expected to testify in the case.

While the former president’s family business has been the subject of legal scrutiny, this is the first time the company has faced a criminal trial, the Journal notes.

The company faces nine criminal counts including conspiracy, criminal tax fraud and falsifying business records. The trial is expected to last about six weeks. Under New York state law, the company faces a maximum of about $1.6 million in fines if convicted on all charges. A criminal conviction could also make it harder for the company to obtain loans and access banking services. 

The Trump Organization’s lawyers have said prosecutors brought the case because of the Trump name. “Compensation cases are resolved by civil tax authorities, not criminal charges,” the lawyers said when the charges were announced.

The trial follows a multiyear investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office into Trump and his company. That investigation initially examined hush-money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels; then, shifted to an examination of whether the Trumps made misrepresentations about the value of their assets to lenders, insurers. and tax authorities. The district attorney’s office, then led by Cyrus Vance Jr., obtained Trump’s tax returns after a legal battle that went to the Supreme Court.

The tax-fraud indictment was an offshoot of that probe. District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who currently leads the office, has said his broader investigation into Trump, his company, and its leadership is ongoing. 

Although the allegations at trial revolve around the company’s payroll practices, not its larger real-estate business, prosecutors have said the company engaged in an audacious scheme.

“It was orchestrated by the most senior executives who were financially benefiting themselves and the company by getting secret pay raises at the expense of state and federal taxpayers,” Carey Dunne, the office’s former general counsel, told state Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan last year.

Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August, throwing a wrench in the Trump Organization’s legal strategy. “We jointly had a defense theory, in which Weisselberg maintained he was innocent of all the charges,” Trump Organization lawyer Susan Necheles told the judge in September. She said the company had been forced to restructure its defense.

As part of his plea deal, Weisselberg agreed to testify truthfully against the Trump Organization at trial. Nicholas Gravante Jr., a partner at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP who represents Weisselberg, said that under the promised sentence, Weisselberg would serve a maximum of 100 days in jail. 

Weisselberg has met with both prosecutors and the Trump Organization’s lawyers in advance of the trial “in order to assure that his testimony goes smoothly,” Gravante said.

The Trump Organization is expected to argue that the tax-fraud scheme to which Weisselberg admitted was an isolated practice of the finance chief and another employee, SVP/Controller Jeff McConney, and didn’t extend to the company itself.

A lawyer for McConney, who is named as an unindicted co-conspirator, didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Research contact: @WSJ

New York AG Letitia James: We found ‘significant evidence’ of Trump Organization fraud

January 20, 2022

New York Attorney General Letitia James asked a court late Tuesday night, January 18, to compel Donald TrumpDonald Trump Jr., and Ivanka Trump to testify under oath—saying that her office’s investigation into the Trump Organization had uncovered “significant evidence” of fraud, reports The Daily Beast.

James said in a tweet, “We have uncovered significant evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used fraudulent and misleading asset valuations on multiple properties to obtain economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions for years.”

“Donald J. Trump, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump Jr… assert that they may have ignored lawfully issued subpoenas for sworn testimony because of what they contend is ‘an unprecedented and unconstitutional maneuver’ by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG)” the motion states. “But subpoenas to current and former top company officials—such as those at issue here—are routine in complex financial investigations and are amply warranted here.”

The court document notes that for over a year—and since Eric Trump testified in August 2020—the AG’s office has found significant evidence indicating that the Trump Organization used intentionally wrong property valuations “to obtain a host of economic benefits, including loans, insurance coverage, and tax deductions.”

Eric Trump invoked the Fifth Amendment “repeatedly” to avoid testifying as to the valuations of multiple Trump Organization properties, according to the memo.

Prosecutors note that, while their office has not reached a final decision as to whether this evidence warrants any legal action, their grounds “for conducting the investigation are beyond reproach.”

“This game must end,” the AG’s office says in its court filing, which asks that a judge force Trump and his two adult children to testify, as well as compel the company to turn over key missing documents.

In a Wednesday statement, the Trump Organization denied the allegations, accusing James of “misleading the public” with her probe into the former president’s businesses.

“She defrauded New Yorkers by basing her entire candidacy on a promise to get Trump at all costs without having seen a shred of evidence and in violation of every conceivable ethical rule. Three years later she is now faced with the stark reality that she has no case,” the statement said.

“So, in response to Trump suing her and filing multiple ethical complaints, and on the heels of her failed governor’s race, she has no choice but to mislead the public yet again by misrepresenting the facts and ignoring her own inflammatory comments. Her allegations are baseless and will be vigorously defended.”

The filing states that the investigation into the Trump Organization began in March 2019, when Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen testified before Congress. During his testimony, Cohen said Trump’s annual financial states inflated the values of the former president’s assets in order to obtain favorable loans and insurance coverage—while also deflating the value of some of his other assets to lower real estate taxes owed.

“OAG has methodically investigated those allegations; indeed, the Trump Organization has already provided substantial documentary and testimonial discovery in response to subpoenas issued by OAG in connection with its civil investigation, without ever challenging OAG’s good faith,” the motion states.

For more than two years, the Trump Organization was aware of the attorney general’s investigation into the alleged misconduct and insisted its executives were cooperating, according to the filing. In reality, the motion states, the organization dragged its heels and only recently began to hand over many of the documents that were ordered via subpoena in December 2019.

The memo details numerous schemes to allegedly inflate the value of Trump’s assets, including one in which the former president valued his own apartment in Trump Tower at $327 million, “based on the apartment having 30,000 square feet of space multiplied by a certain price per square foot.” But in 2017, the apartment shrank for the first time to its actual size of just over 10,000 square feet and its valuation shrank commensurately to $116.8 million.

Asked about this, Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg conceded that this amounted to a $200 million overstatement, “give or take.”

The court filing offers details on the Trump Organization’s allegedly misleading and false statements about the value of at least six properties—including the Trump golf clubs in Scotland and Westchester; and several of the company’s iconic buildings, including Trump Park Avenue and 40 Wall Street.

The AG’s office argues that the Trump Organization misrepresented the value of all these properties to the IRS, lenders, and other insurers with financial statements that were “inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Mr. Trump’s net worth was higher than it otherwise would have appeared.”

In addition to the former president’s alleged misdeeds, the filing also paints a better picture into the previously opaque roles his two adult children play in the company. For example, Ivanka Trump was renting an apartment at Trump Park Avenue as if it were valued at $8.5 million, the memo notes. In Trump’s financial statements, however, the apartment was worth $25 million.

Ivanka “was a key player” in many of the company’s transactions and “was able to ask for an access to financial summaries and projections covering properties or businesses in the Trump Organization portfolio,” according to the memo, and also was a point person in its relationship with Deutsche Bank.

Donald Trump Jr., who joined the family firm in 2001, was likewise crucial to the organization’s financial makeup.

“Moreover, evidence obtained by OAG confirms that Donald Trump, Jr. was involved with certain Trump Organization properties that are valued on Mr. Trump’s Statement of Financial Condition, including 40 Wall Street, and was consulted in connection with the matters on the Statements of Financial Condition,” the memo states.

The attorney general’s office claims it has received more than 5 million pages of evidence from the company that show Trump lied about the most banal things: the amount of cash available for a deal, the use of so-called “outside professionals” to evaluate the value of assets, and even the actual size of the Trump Tower penthouse. In some instances, investigators say, they found that the Trump Organization inflated the value of a property simply because it had his name on it—even though the financial documents explicitly indicated that wasn’t allowed.

But when investigators tried to get a hold of Trump’s handwritten documents—like Post-it Notes—that would show his involvement in the allegedly shady valuations, the AG’s office alleges that the company simply wouldn’t turn them over.

In the past, a source with direct knowledge of the company’s inner workings has told The Daily Beast that the Trump Organization had an annual ritual in which Trump and Weisselberg would review company finances in private and fill in the blanks as they saw fit. (Weisselberg and the company were indicted last summer on tax fraud charges in the parallel criminal investigation that’s being run by the Manhattan district attorney with the AG’s help.)

The filing asks a judge to compel Donald Trump and the Trump Organization to turn over all documents within 14 days, and to have Donald, Donald Jr., and Ivanka summoned to testify within 21 days.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Trump closes in on a deal to sell marquee Washington, D.C., hotel

October 13, 2021

The Miami-based CGI Merchant Group currently is in talks to pay ex-President Donald Trump’s family company around $370 million for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.—which, during the last administration, attracted GOP lawmakers, lobbyists and other political attention-grabbers, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., is located in the former Old Post Office, a short walk down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House in a building featuring some of the largest guest rooms in the capital.

The property is owned by the federal government, but with extensions the lease runs close to 100 years. CGI also has entered into discussions with hotel operators, including Hilton Worldwide HoldingsWaldorf Astoria luxury brand, about removing the Trump name in favor of that of another hotel manager, NBC News sources said.

The lease deal could ultimately fetch closer to $400 million, which would represent roughly a doubling of the money the Trump Organization spent to convert the government building into a luxury hotel, said one of the people familiar with the matter.

The Trump Organization initially hoped to sell the lease for close to $500 million, a person familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal in 2019.

The hotel sales talks have been heating up as Democratic-controlled House committees have been investigating and holding hearings on potential conflicts of interest and emoluments issues surrounding Trump.

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform has been examining the lease terms between the Trump Organization and the federal government’s General Services Administration for use of the Old Post Office. The deal predates Mr. Trump’s entry into national politics, but the committee is probing how well Trump managed conflicts of interest while president.

A Friday report from the House committee said the hotel lost more than $70 million between its opening in 2016 and last year—leading the company to inject at least $24 million in aid.

Research contact: @WSJ

Where ‘s the door? Eric Trump’s lawyer in New York State AG’s suit quits

September 22, 2021

Criminal trial lawyer Marc Mukasey has quit representing Eric Trump , according to a court filing submitted last week. The well-known defense attorney had been placed on retainer by the former president’s scion in the New York Attorney General’s civil suit alleging that the Trump Organization committed fraud.

Mukasey informed a New York state Supreme Court judge in Manhattan that he was  on September 14, Forbes reports.

The move comes  between the parties was filed. Before that agreement, the docket shows . Indeed, according to Forbes, it’s not clear if there’s any connection between the agreement and Mukasey’s departure.

Mukasey declined to comment on the record for this story. He has represented Eric Trump in the case since it was filed in August 2020. Eric and representatives from the Trump Organization have not replied to inquiries.

A former law partner of Rudy Giuliani, Mukasey has worked for several high-profile clients, including Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, oil-field service company Halliburton, and basketball coach Rick Pitino.

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) is investigating the Trump Organization over allegations that it  to secure loans and tax breaks.

Eric will continue to be represented by criminal defense attorney Alan Futerfas, a New York-based criminal attorney who has frequently represented clients in organized crime and cybersecurity cases—and also is representing Donald Trump, Jr.

Research contact: @Forbes

Two Trump Organization employees are called to testify before Manhattan grand jury

September 3, 2021

Two Trump Organization employees—a senior finance official and a director of security—are expected to testify before a grand jury early this month, as Manhattan prosecutors seek to advance their criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s business affairs, according to people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Matthew Calamari Jr., the Trump Organization’s corporate director of security—and the son of the company’s COO—was served a subpoena for his testimony this week, the sources said. Prosecutors have examined an apartment Calamari received from the Trump Organization and how he reported that apartment on his taxes, according to those same sources.

Jeffrey McConney, a senior finance official at the Trump Organization, also is expected to go before the grand jury again very shortly.

Citing people with knowledge of the matter, The New York Times reported that the order for McConney—the long-standing Trump Organization controller and one of a small group of officials supervising the company’s fiscal matters—to testify before a state grand jury relating to the office’s ongoing probe into top Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg.

McConney, who previously testified before the grand jury prior to the indictments of the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer earlier this summer, prepared the personal tax returns of Matthew Calamari Sr. , people familiar with the matter said.

Calamari Jr.’s testimony before the grand jury would grant him immunity on the subjects about which he testified—signaling that prosecutors don’t plan to indict him. Prosecutors continue to investigate whether the elder Calamari received tax-free fringe benefits and to determine whether his cooperation would be helpful to them, according to people familiar with the matter.

Nicholas Gravante Jr., the Calamaris’ lawyer, denied wrongdoing by his clients and said: “If either of my clients [is] subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury, they have no choice but to do so, and will appear and testify truthfully.”

A lawyer for McConney didn’t respond to a request for comment.

In July, the Manhattan district attorney’s office announced indictments—charging the Trump Organization and Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg with tax fraud. Prosecutors accused Weisselberg and the company of a 15-year-long tax-fraud scheme involving off-the-books payments and perks like cars and apartments to employees at the company. Prosecutors from the New York attorney general’s office are working with the district attorney’s office on the case.

According to the Journal, Weisselberg and lawyers for the Trump Organization have pleaded not guilty. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said that the case was brought because of the Trump name and that compensation cases are resolved by civil tax authorities.

Since then, prosecutors have fought with the Trump Organization over documents the district attorney’s office subpoenaed.

A second sealed court appearance over that dispute took place last week, according to people familiar with the matter.

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump’s claims of ‘tax genius’ may undermine his legal defense of ‘ignorance’

July 8, 2021

Former President Donald Trump has claimed for years to be “a master of the tax code.” But now—faced with charges leveled against the Trump Organization and its CFO, Allen Weisselberg, by New York District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr.—Trump is going with a legal defense of ignorance.

Experts say his past comments may be his undoing, The Daily Beast reports.

Faced with an indictment of his family’s business empire for criminal tax fraud, former President Donald Trump previewed a defense strategy—of sorts—last weekend: ignorance of the law.

“I don’t even know. Does anybody know the answer to that stuff?” he shrugged on Saturday, July 3, in front of adoring fans at a political rally in Sarasota, Florida.

The twice-impeached former president’s remarks provoked a flurry of reactions from some legal commentators and pundits, who saw a besieged client running his mouth in public, and potentially undermining his legal team’s carefully manicured strategies.

But Trump wasn’t so much upturning his legal defense as much as he was delivering his sloppy rendition of it, The Daily Beast says.

According to two people familiar with the matter, lawyers representing him and the Trump Organization are preparing to include this very point in court arguments, given how much the specific intent of an individual matters in areas of New York tax law.

And yet, former prosecutors and defense lawyers who have tried criminal tax cases in New York City told The Daily Beast that Trump, his family, and company executives face a steep hill—and it’s mostly due to Trump himself.

“To a certain extent, not knowing the law is a defense… It’s one of the only defenses in a case like this,” said Tess Cohen, a former New York prosecutor. “But I have trouble believing that’ll get very far.”

That’s because, for years, Trump has called himself “king of the tax code.”

“Nobody knows the tax code better than I do… I’m like a student of the tax code,” he said during a 60 Minutes interview in 2015. He repeated that sentiment on MSNBC and later told supporters in Tampa: “I know more about taxes than any human being that God ever created.”

Trump’s attorney Ronald Fischetti did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Should this investigation make its way to trial, prosecutors with the Manhattan district attorney and New York State attorney general would certainly want to question Trump under oath for hours, legal scholars said. The result would be “devastating” for his defense, said Carl Bornstein, a former New York prosecutor who now teaches at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

“Those prior inconsistent statements will undermine his claim of lack of knowledge on cross-examination,” he said.

Behind the scenes, the ex-president has insisted that New York prosecutors are out to hurt his business and to try to poison the Trump Organization’s dealings with other companies. In the past few weeks, Trump has encouraged people close to him to publicly claim that his family business is thriving, according to two people familiar with his request.

In recent private conversations, the former president has lamented that further investigation into him and others at the Trump Organization could potentially stretch on for years, adding to his hefty and growing pile of legal bills.

As Trump continues to weigh running for president again in 2024, any increased pressure or potential indictments from New York prosecutors could hobble another lengthy campaign. Still, several longtime advisers to Trump have reassured him that the vast core of Republican voters will not abandon him, should he choose to run again, and that the probes in his home state merely reinforce their devotion.

“The numbers don’t change. Rock solid,” John McLaughlin, who worked as one of Trump’s top pollsters during the 2016 and 2020 campaigns, said, citing his own recent polling data. “Attacks on President Trump galvanize his base.”

When the IRS hunts someone down for refusing to pay taxes, government lawyers don’t have to show intent. But this legal battle is taking place in New York, where state laws require prosecutors to prove that someone was “willfully engaging” in tax fraud.

It’s a higher bar, but not an insurmountable one—especially when it seems that investigators have specific documents that would indicate a concerted effort to conceal the truth.

The 25-page indictment says investigators have “internal spreadsheets” that show exactly how unreported perks replaced employee income, Cohen, the former New York prosecutor, noted.

“Simultaneously, the Trump Organization reduced the amount of direct compensation that Weisselberg received in the form of checks or direct deposits to account for the indirect compensation that he received in the form of payments of rent, utility bills, and garage expenses,” the indictment claims.

“You can’t get much better evidence than that,” Cohen said.

Research contact: @thedailybeast

Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg expected to be charged Thursday

July 1, 2021

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is expected to charge the Trump Organization and its chief financial officer with tax-related crimes on Thursday, July 1, sources have told The Wall Street Journal.

These would mark the first criminal charges against the former president’s company since prosecutors began investigating it three years ago.

The charges against the Trump Organization and Allen Weisselberg, the company’s longtime chief financial officer, represent a blow to former President Donald Trump, who has fended off multiple criminal and civil probes during and after his presidency.

Trump himself isn’t expected to be charged, his lawyer said. Weisselberg has rejected prosecutors’ attempts at gaining his cooperation, according to people familiar with the matter, the Journal said.

The defendants are expected to appear in court on Thursday afternoon. The Trump Organization and Weisselberg are expected to face charges related to allegedly evading taxes on fringe benefits, sources said.

For months, the Manhattan D.A.’s Office and New York State Attorney General’s Office have been investigating whether Weisselberg and other employees illegally avoided paying taxes on perks—such as cars, apartments, and private-school tuition—that they received from the Trump Organization.

If prosecutors could demonstrate that the Trump Organization and its executives systematically avoided paying taxes, they could file more serious charges alleging a scheme, lawyers said.

Weisselberg and his lawyers haven’t commented on the investigation or impending charges.

Trump has denied wrongdoing and said the investigations, conducted by offices led by Democrats, are politically motivated. Earlier this week, he said in a statement that the case is composed of “things that are standard practice throughout the U.S. business community, and in no way a crime.”

Research contact: @WSJ

Trump Organization attorneys have until end-of-day June 28 to persuade prosecutors not to file charges

June 29, 2021

Prosecutors in New York have given former President Donald Trump’s attorneys a deadline of Monday afternoon, June 28, to make their final arguments as to why the Trump Organization should not face criminal charges over its financial dealings, according to two people familiar with the matter, The Washington Post reports.

That deadline is a strong signal that Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. (D) and New York Attorney General Letitia James (D)—now working together, after each has spent more than two years investigating Trump’s business—are considering criminal charges against the company as an entity.

Earlier this year, Vance convened a grand jury in Manhattan to consider indictments in the investigation. No entity or individual has been charged in the investigations thus far, and it remains possible that no charges will be filed, the Post says.

Prosecutors have shown interest in whether Trump’s company used misleading valuations of its properties to deceive lenders and taxing authorities, and in whether taxes were paid on fringe benefits for company executives, according to court documents and people familiar with the investigations.

The two people familiar with the deadline set for Trump’s attorneys spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose private conversations. Under New York law, prosecutors may file charges against corporations in addition to individuals.

Last Thursday, lawyers working for Trump personally and for the Trump Organization met virtually with prosecutors to make the case that charges were not warranted. Meetings like these are common in financial investigations. The Post notes—allowing defense attorneys a chance to present evidence before prosecutors make a decision on whether to seek charges.

Thursday’s meeting was first reported by The New York Times. Spokespeople for Vance and James declined to comment on Sunday, as did an attorney for Trump, Ronald Fischetti, and an attorney for the Trump Organization, Alan Futerfas.

People familiar with the probe confirmed to The Washington Post that prosecutors were looking at charging the Trump Organization as an entity, as well as Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, following Weisselberg’s refusal to assist in the investigation.

Trump—who on June 26 kicked off a planned series of rallies to boost his and favored Republicans’ future election prospects—still owns his businesses through a trust managed by his adult sons and Weisselberg. He gave up day-to-day management of the company while in the White House, but it is unclear what role he plays in the company’s operations now.

Last month, Trump called the investigations a “witch hunt” run by Democrats seeking to damage his future political prospects.

Research contact: @washingtonpost

The winner of this week’s Manhattan D.A. primary is poised to take over the Trump investigation

June 24, 2021

Whoever wins the Democratic primary race for Manhattan district attorney on Tuesday, June 22, isn’t just poised to take the helm of one of the most legendary prosecutors offices in New York. He or she also will inherit perhaps the highest profile investigation in the country—that of former President Donald Trump and his company, CNN reports.

The outgoing district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., is likely to decide whether to charge a case against the former president, the Trump Organization, or company executives by the end of his term in December, as CNN previous has reported.

If that happens, the next district attorney— most likely the winner of Tuesday’s primary, given the overwhelmingly Democratic makeup of Manhattan—will oversee the prosecution.

With eight contenders, the Democratic primary race for district attorney is a crowded one; and, unlike the New York City mayoral primary, it doesn’t have ranked-choice voting.

What’s more, the winner is likely to incur Trump’s very public ire if they he or she continues Vance’s work, since the former President has been quick to accuse Democrats investigating him—including Vance and New York State Attorney General Letitia James—of pursuing political prosecutions.

“If you can run for a prosecutor’s office pledging to take out your enemies, and be elected to that job by partisan voters who wish to enact political retribution,” Trump said in May, after James disclosed her office was working with the district attorney on its criminal investigation, “then we are no longer a free constitutional democracy.”

Some of the candidates already have expressed their views on the former president. Alvin Bragg, whom CNN says is widely seen as a leading contender in the race, has boasted of having sued the Trump administration more than 100 times while he was in the state attorney general’s office, where he was chief deputy. He also has noted that he led the team that sued the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which resulted in Trump personally paying $2 million to an array of charities.

“I’ve seen him up front and have seen the lawlessness that he can do,” Bragg said on the radio show “Ebro in the Morning,” in January. “I believe we have to hold him accountable. I haven’t seen all the facts beyond the public but I’ve litigated with him and so I’m prepared to go where the facts take me once I see them, and hold him accountable.”

Another leading candidate, Tali Farhadian Weinstein, has said comparatively little about Trump—noting that it would be improper to comment on the subject of an ongoing investigation.

In 2017, Farhadian Weinstein interviewed with members of Trump’s White House Counsel’s office for a federal judgeship, a position for which she had also applied during the Obama administration, according to The New York Times.

In the final debate last week, Farhadian Weinstein defended having sought the judgeship, saying: “It is not factual to say that federal judges, which are a separate part of the federal government, would work for the president. And so, to have been considered to be appointed to the federal bench while … Trump or anyone else was president, doesn’t mean that I would have been working for his administration.”

She worked as counsel to Attorney General Eric Holder and later as general counsel in the Brooklyn district attorney’s office, where she successfully sued the Trump Administration to get Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers out of courthouses in Brooklyn, after finding that female victims of domestic violence were too afraid to come to court for fear of finding officers present.

Other contenders in the race also have history with Trump or his policies. Tahanie Aboushi, a civil rights lawyer, touts her experience spending four days at John F. Kennedy International Airport in the wake of Trump’s 2017 travel ban on Muslim-majority countries, where she supplied legal assistance to people detained by US Customs and Border Protection.

Candidate Lucy Lang, a veteran of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, counts as one of her senior advisers a former colleague who led the office’s investigation into Trump SoHo—which examined whether or not the Trump Organization misled potential buyers about the values of units, a probe Lang has said shouldn’t have been shuttered.

In November, she tweeted: “Today I called for the #ManhattanDA investigations into Donald Trump to continue. Immunity is not a consolation prize to losing and election, and no one is above the law. We can’t allow Donald Trump’s failed presidential campaign to absolve him of responsibility.”

But she has also taken pains to distance herself from Trump-related commentary, saying in June that “I think that one of the worst things the next District Attorney could do would be to say something on the campaign trail that would suggest anything other than complete impartiality when it comes to investigating all the cases in front of the office and putting themselves in a position where they might face a recusal motion or a removal of jurisdiction.”

Another candidate, public defender Eliza Orlins, has been more blunt in her criticism of the former president. In December, she publicly cheered Trump’s election loss, tweeting: “We did it! We got rid of Donald Trump. But that won’t change the fact that our systems inherently favor the rich and powerful and oppress the poor.”

New York state Assemblyman Dan Quart, also vying for the office, has split the difference, saying in February, “I’ve been very active and vocal on my feelings on Trump’s abuses of the rule of law, of his terrible policies, of his indecency, but that’s different than being a district attorney who has to judge each case on the merits.”

Diana Florence, a former prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s office who left the office in January 2020 after a judge dismissed one of her cases when she failed to turn over evidence to defense attorneys, has suggested she believes Trump is due for retribution.

“I think what’s amazing about Donald Trump is that he ascended to the highest office in our nation and even before that had tremendous success and that was while doing whatever the heck he wanted to do,” she told Forbes in November. “He will now face the ability to be prosecuted. He had a brief immunity while a sitting president, but as I just talked about he had a de facto immunity for being a wealthy and powerful man for many, many years. And I believe that time will be changing.”

Research contact: @CNN

The heat is on: Trump-probe prosecutors in Manhattan convene special grand jury

May 27, 2021

Manhattan prosecutors have convened a special grand jury in their investigation of former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization—signaling that the office is seeking to bring charges in the case, according to people familiar with the matter, The Wall Street Journal reports.

The development signals that the office is seeking criminal indictments following a multiyear investigation into the Trump Organization and its officers, former prosecutors said. District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. has said the office is investigating possible bank, tax, or insurance fraud.

Special grand juries typically sit for at least several months, compared with regular grand juries, which are impaneled for a month. They often hear multiple complex cases, such as white-collar investigations.

“Special grand juries are common when state prosecutors get to the point where they are ready to seek an indictment but the evidence is too complex or lengthy to present during the normal four-week term,” Daniel R. Alonso, a former federal prosecutor who was Vance’s chief assistant, told the Journal.

The special grand jury was earlier reported by The Washington Post.

A spokesman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment. A spokeswoman for the Trump Organization and a lawyer for Trump didn’t respond to requests for comment.

However, ,Trump said in a statement on May 25 that the investigations by Vance and New York Attorney General Letitia James, both Democrats, were purely political.

“This is a continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history,” said Trump. “Our Country is broken.”

The New York attorney general’s office, which had said it was conducting a civil investigation into the Trump Organization, said last week that its probe had a “criminal component.”  James said during an unrelated news conference last week that two assistant attorneys general were working alongside the district attorney’s office.

Research contact: @WSJ