A special grand jury is secretly hearing from witnesses in the Manhattan DA’s Trump investigation. Here’s how it’ll decide whether to bring criminal charges.

Manhattan District Attorney cyrus vance jr da
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. in 2020.

  • The Manhattan DA’s office convened a “special grand jury” in its Trump investigation last month.
  • Jurors will decide whether to criminally charge Trump, the Trump Organization, or its executives.
  • Here’s a breakdown of how a special grand jury works, as well as what evidence and witnesses will likely come before jurors as they meet in secret.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In a courtroom in downtown Manhattan, the district attorney’s office is marshaling paperwork and secretly whisking witnesses in front of a “special” grand jury for what may be one of the most consequential criminal cases in the history of the United States.

The grand jury is “special” in two ways. It’ll be convened for six months, rather than one month, which is standard. It also could be asked to do something no one has ever done before: indict a former president.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into Donald Trump’s and the Trump Organization’s finances appears to have reached an advanced stage. Prosecutors are expected to announce whether they’re bringing any criminal charges before the end of the year, and the special grand jury – a group of 23 ordinary citizens – will be the ones to make the final call.

Here’s how the process works.

What does a special grand jury do?

The precise rules for grand juries and criminal charges vary by state. Under New York law, which governs the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, a felony charge – a criminal charge that would result in a year or more in prison – may go to trial only if a grand jury decides to file an indictment.

A grand jury in New York consists of 23 people. Sixteen jurors must be present in order to make charging decisions, and 12 must vote in favor of bringing an indictment. They must meet in secret and are not permitted to discuss the case with anyone outside the jury. Grand juries can also issue subpoenas and compel witnesses to testify.

Most grand juries meet for one month and hear multiple cases. According to The Washington Post, the Manhattan DA has empaneled a “special” grand jury that will last up to six months in order to hear evidence from the Trump investigation and decide whether to bring an indictment.

Special grand juries are typically empaneled to review evidence for more sophisticated cases like Trump’s, which spanned two years and involves possibly millions of pages of documents. Court documents suggest that the office of Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr. has been investigating whether the Trump Organization, its executives, or Donald Trump himself broke tax laws by keeping two sets of books. One set would have shown assets of little value, in order to pay little in taxes; another would have shown significant profits in order to receive favorable loan and insurance rates. Legal experts expect Vance to make a case for tax, bank, and insurance fraud charges.

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Donald Trump in 2020.

A judge may extend the special grand jury beyond the allotted six months, though Vance is widely expected to announce a charging decision before he retires at the end of December. The special grand jury, like regular grand juries, may also hear more than one case depending on how Vance’s office decides to schedule it.

Grand juries are meant to function as a check on government power. Prosecutors need to convince a majority of jurors that there’s probable cause to charge someone with a crime; only then can a case go to trial.

“The grand jury was designed to say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, government, before you just start taking anybody you feel like to trial and convicting them and tossing them into jail or cutting their heads off, we’re going to make you present evidence first and satisfy a group of people to show that we have a case,'” said Randy Zelin, an attorney at Wilk Auslander LLP and former prosecutor.

But in reality, defense lawyers like Zelin say, grand juries almost always agree with prosecutors.

In a trial, a judge oversees the process, defense lawyers can put up a defense or call their own witnesses, and prosecutors must overcome the challenge of getting a jury to reach a unanimous verdict.

But prosecutors determine which witnesses to bring and what evidence to show a grand jury – and the verdict doesn’t need to be unanimous.

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The judge’s bench is seen at the New York State Supreme Court in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., August 21, 2020.

What evidence will jurors review?

Earlier this year, Vance’s office won what’s likely the biggest prize in their investigation. After two Supreme Court decisions, the district attorney’s office was finally able to obtain the Trump Organization’s tax documents in February.

Those documents include Trump’s tax returns, which he has fought vociferously to keep from the public and which he has repeatedly lied about. Legal experts say the documents also likely include email communications between Trump Organization officials, insurance brokers, third-party accountants, and banks about what would go into those tax returns. If the communications show that Trump Organization officials sought to distort the true value of the company’s properties, that could amount to tax and wire fraud, according to the legal experts.

Prosecutors have been examining that documentation for months. Now, they will present those documents as exhibits before the grand jury.

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Donald Trump, Allen Weisselberg, Donald Trump Jr.

Aside from the subpoenaed tax documents, prosecutors may present jurors with financial documents provided by cooperating witnesses.

Jennifer Weisselberg, the former daughter-in-law of Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg, obtained seven boxes of documents as part of an acrimonious divorce from Barry Weisselberg, Allen’s son. She gave those documents to prosecutors in the fall, and in interviews with Insider said they may include evidence that Allen Weisselberg distorted employee compensation in a way that may break tax laws.

Barry Weisselberg is also a key Trump Organization employee, as the manager of the cash-only Wollman rink in Central Park. Prosecutors may also be examining documentation about the rink’s operations for potential tax fraud, according to people familiar with the investigation.

The financial documents investigators gathered may be complex and difficult for a grand jury to comprehend. That poses a challenge for Vance’s office. Under New York state law, prosecutors can’t present “hearsay evidence,” or prosecutors’ personal summaries of the evidence, to grand juries. Instead, prosecutors must provide the underlying documentation directly to the jurors.

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Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. speaks at a news conference about dismissing some 3,000 marijunana smoking and possession cases in New York City, U.S., September 12, 2018.

Prosecutors can also get third parties to present evidence, including charts and summaries, for them. Vance’s office is working with FTI Consulting, a forensic accounting firm, to analyze Trump’s documents, and those accountants may present their analysis to a grand jury.

“There could be summary charts or analyses that are put together by the person who has done that analysis to help the grand jury understand the documents,” said Rebecca Ricigliano, a former first assistant attorney general for the state of New Jersey and longtime federal prosecutor in Manhattan. “You see that all the time in regular trials where there’s complicated financials or complicated issues concerning voluminous documents.”

What witnesses will jurors hear from?

The person or entities under investigation don’t have any say in who’s called as a witness before a grand jury. It’s up to prosecutors to decide who testifies.

By default, anyone who gets called as a witness in front of a grand jury in New York gets “transactional immunity,” meaning they get total immunity from prosecution for any possible crimes related to their testimony. Transactional immunity protects people from being subpoenaed and forced to incriminate themselves.

It also means prosecutors need to secure cooperating witnesses before going to a grand jury. The names of some of those witnesses in the DA’s investigation are already public.

Michael Cohen, a former Trump Organization executive and personal lawyer for the ex-president, told Insider he’s spoken to prosecutors more than a dozen times. Jennifer Weisselberg has helped prosecutors understand the company’s inner workings, which she’s described as corrupt. Both will likely serve as grand jury witnesses, and both declined Insider’s request to discuss their possible role, saying they don’t want to jeopardize the legal process.

On Friday, ABC News reported that Vance’s office brought Jeff McConney, a senior vice president and controller for the Trump Organization, to testify in front of the special grand jury.

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Michael Cohen.

Prosecutors also may have secured less boldfaced names, like tax preparers at Mazers, the firm used by the Trump Organization, or officials at the insurance firm Aon.

It’s unclear whether prosecutors have secured cooperation from Allen Weisselberg, who is widely viewed as a potential key witness for the case. He’s worked for the Trumps for more than four decades, and knows the company’s as well as the family’s finances inside and out. Prosecutors reportedly want him to testify about those finances.

But prosecutors wouldn’t want to just call Weisselberg as a grand jury witness, which would give him immunity from prosecution for any financial crimes he may have committed in his role as CFO.

Ricigliano noted that people shouldn’t assume Weisselberg will make or break the DA’s case.

“It’s hard to judge whether he’s really a make-or-break figure, or if they have been able to compile the evidence they need from multiple other sources,” Ricigliano, now an attorney at Crowell & Moring, told Insider. “You can build a case like building a house. You can either get a crane to drop down a prefab house, or you can build it brick by brick.”

Does Trump himself play any role?

If Trump himself is a subject of the DA’s probe, he wouldn’t be called as a grand jury witness. If prosecutors want to charge him, giving him transactional immunity would defeat the purpose of their investigation.

Still, if a lawyer knows their client is a subject of a probe, they can serve a “grand jury notice” to the district attorney’s office, Zelin told Insider.

Trump Tower
Then President-elect Donald Trump boards the elevator at Trump Tower in New York City on January 16, 2017.

If that notice is served, prosecutors may be forced to inform the special grand jury that a particular witness named by the defense attorney is willing to testify. The jurors may then decide to subpoena the witness, giving that person transactional immunity against the prosecutors’ wishes.

“It’s sometimes a sophisticated and savvy move on a defense attorney’s part,” Zelin said.

To head off that scenario, prosecutors will try to make a deal with potential witnesses – called a cooperation or plea agreement – where they’d testify in front of a grand jury and agree to waive transactional immunity.

“Prosecutors are very strategic in thinking through their presentation of evidence to ensure that they are not immunizing a witness who they shouldn’t be immunizing,” Ricigliano said.

What charging decisions can the special grand jury make?

It’s not clear whether Vance will seek to charge Trump, Trump Organization executives, the company – or not bring charges at all.

Former New York Supreme Court chief judge Sol Wachtler said a grand jury would “indict a ham sandwich” if a prosecutor told them to because of the amount of control they have over the process. Zelin said because of that dynamic, grand juries can offer prosecutors political cover.

If prosecutors don’t want to pursue a politically inconvenient case, they can blame the grand jury for not bringing an indictment.

But grand juries can also offer protection: Trump has already attempted to tarnish Vance’s investigation by describing it as politically motivated. If a grand jury brings an indictment against Trump, Vance could persuasively say that fellow citizens, not just his office, believe the former president may have committed a crime.

Mark Pomerantz
Mark F. Pomerantz at the press confernce were former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation March 12, 2008 in New York City.

Any charging decisions in this case will be controversial. Democrats sore over Trump’s apparent ability to wriggle out of every scandal will be further rattled if he isn’t personally charged. Trump supporters may be scandalized if he’s held responsible for financial wrongdoing that may have been engineered by other executives like Weisselberg.

Daniel R. Alonso, a former top Vance deputy, previously told Insider there’s a good chance the DA may ask the grand jury to bring charges against only the Trump Organization.

Charging the Trump Organization alone would be a smart strategic move that would further puncture Trump’s image as a successful businessman, possibly cut into his family’s reputation, and provoke less backlash from the 74 million people who voted for him, Zelin said.

“An argument could be made that it’s more devastating,” Zelin said. “If you kill the Trump Organization, basically you kill the Trump family’s means and a rather extravagant high-profile and lavish lifestyle.”

cyrus vance jr federal court
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance arrives at federal court for a hearing related to President Donald Trump’s financial records on October 23, 2019 in New York City.

Ricigliano told Insider that prosecutors don’t typically think about political considerations when they bring cases in front of a grand jury.

She emphasized that prosecutors in Vance’s office – as well as prosecutors with New York Attorney General Letitia James’ parallel investigation – gathered massive amounts of information over the course of their two-year probe, and the public only is aware of a small fraction of it.

Those prosecutors will ultimately bring the best case they have based on the evidence, she said.

“I don’t think that prosecutors view the grand juries as potential scapegoats or ways to alleviate pressure,” Ricigliano said. “It’s part of the system that’s been part of the country since the dawn of the revolution.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

A New York City investment manager has been charged with stealing over $2.4 million through PPP loans

ppp loan application
A page from the PPP loan application that people have to fill out for financial support due to the continuing outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is pictured on a desk in New York U.S., May 7, 2020.

  • New York City prosecutors charged a man with stealing over $2.4 million through PPP loans.
  • The man is accused of applying for five PPP loans and lying about the number of employees he had.
  • Prosecutors alleged he transferred the “vast majority” of the money to personal trading accounts.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A New York City investment manager was charged Friday with stealing more than $2.4 million from five lending institutions through Payment Protection Program loans, prosecutors said in a statement.

Gregory Blotnick, 33, is accused of applying for five separate PPP loans between April 2020 and August 2020, and lying about the number of employees he had at his companies, Brattle Street Capital LLC and BSC Management LLC.

While the loans were meant to cover payroll costs, prosecutors accused Blotnick of instead transferring a “vast majority” of the money to his personal trading accounts and losing it in the market.

“As alleged, Mr. Blotnick repeatedly took advantage of a system intended to provide lifelines to small businesses and their employees during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.

Blotnick has been charged with five counts of second-degree grand larceny, five counts of second-degree criminal possession of stolen property, and one count of first-degree scheme to defraud.

“At a time when nearly 3,000 businesses were forced to close their doors across New York City, Mr. Blotnick diverted millions in vital PPP funds for his own personal gain,” Vance’s statement said.

It’s unclear whether Blotnick has entered a plea. Insider could not immediately locate an attorney for Blotnick, and his Linkedin page appears to have been taken down. Insider also could not immediately locate representatives for Blotnick’s companies.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Manhattan prosecutors could be in the final stages of their wide-ranging investigation into Trump’s finances

Former President Donald Trump.

  • Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr.’s investigation into Donald Trump’s finances is heating up.
  • Vance already has Trump’s taxes and recently hired a renowned prosecutor.
  • Some DOJ veterans expect potential charges before the end of the year, when Vance retires.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

After a months-long battle with Donald Trump over his closely held tax returns, the Manhattan district attorney’s office may finally be in the end stages of its wide-ranging investigation into the former president’s financial dealings.

Trump has repeatedly refused to release his tax returns. But in February, prosecutors notched a major victory when the Supreme Court forced Trump to hand over thousands of pages of his financial information to the DA’s office.

The DA’s investigation is examining whether Trump or his businesses falsely reported the value of properties for tax and loan purposes, which would violate New York law. In the weeks since prosecutors obtained his financial records, the investigation has ramped up significantly, according to media reports and two former prosecutors who spoke to Insider.

“They mean business now,” one source told The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer. The person believed Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.’s investigation had stagnated while Trump was in office and prosecutors were fighting a court battle to get his taxes. But now, the source told Mayer, prosecutors’ questions have become “very pointed – they’re sharpshooting now, laser-beaming.”

“It hit me,” this person added. “They’re closer.”

The clues are there. Vance announced Friday he wouldn’t run for re-election. The move was widely expected, since Vance, who held the DA post since 2010, hasn’t raised funds ahead of this summer’s primary. His final day will be in December, and a former top deputy told Insider he believes Vance will want to make charging decisions before he leaves.

“Vance started the investigation,” Daniel Alonso, now a partner at Buckley LLP, told Insider. “I’m sure he is absolutely pressing to have a decision made on whether to prosecute anyone, whom to prosecute, and for what charges, by the end of the year.”

Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Justice Department, echoed that view and told Insider it wasn’t surprising that the investigation’s pace picked up after the Supreme Court ruling.

“You need documents and tax records to prove these cases. That’s how they rise and fall,” he said. “It’s not witness testimony and emails; those things give context to the money. But this case is all about following the money, so it comes down to the tax records, which prosecutors now have full access to.”

Representatives for Trump and the Trump Organization didn’t immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment for this story.

Vance recruited a veteran prosecutor who worked on organized crime cases

Vance is likely personally involved in the details of the Trump investigation, according to Alonso. Eight candidates are vying to be his successor, though, and Alonso said there’s “significant concern” in New York’s legal community that not all of them are “qualified to oversee a case of this magnitude.”

While virtually all of the candidates have criticized Trump at one point or another, they have mostly focused on local affairs in their campaigns. At a candidate forum in January, they demurred when asked how they’d handle the Trump case and largely avoided injecting political considerations into it.

In the meantime, Vance has set up an experienced team of white-collar prosecutors, including several of his own top officials. He also made the unusual decision in February to hire Mark Pomerantz, a former federal prosecutor who worked on organized-crime cases before joining the law firm Paul, Weiss as a white-collar criminal defense lawyer.

“The team was in very good shape,” Alonso said of Vance’s office. “But the fact that Pomerantz agreed to come into the case strikes me as an indication that there is definitely something substantial there to investigate.”

ProPublica reported in October 2019 that documents showed Trump appeared to keep two sets of books for his properties, suggesting potential financial fraud.

In November 2019, Mother Jones published an investigation that found that Trump might have fabricated a loan to avoid paying $50 million in income taxes. And The New York Times reported in 2018 that Trump used a series of dubious tax schemes to shield a $413 million inheritance from the IRS.

In 2019, an IRS whistleblower came forward and alleged that there were “inappropriate efforts to influence” the agency’s mandatory audit of Trump’s taxes. And late last year, The Times published another bombshell investigation showing that Trump paid just $750 in income taxes in 2016 and 2017.

Mark Pomerantz
Mark F. Pomerantz in 2008.

Cramer pointed to Pomerantz’s previous experience prosecuting organized crime cases – he secured the 1999 conviction of the mob boss John Gotti’s son – and said it could prove particularly useful to Vance’s office as it scrutinizes the Trump Organization.

“Obviously Trump wasn’t running an organized crime outfit. But there are some similarities, depending on how the enterprise, which is the Trump Organization in this case, was structured,” Cramer said.

He noted, however, that Pomerantz’s main value likely lies in his private sector experience.

“If you look at any of the good defense lawyers in the country, most of them are former prosecutors,” Cramer said. “Prosecutors make good defense lawyers because they know both sides of cases. They can wear different hats and that’s critical in helping put together a strong case.”

That said, Alonso cautioned that Vance may choose to not bring charges against Trump at all.

“In investigations of accounting fraud, usually prosecutors suspect, and might even believe, that the CEO has the requisite knowledge and intent, but can’t always prove it,” Alonso said.

The precise scope of Vance’s investigation is unclear, but court filings suggest the office could be examining whether Trump and the Trump Organization broke New York state tax laws by manipulating property values to obtain favorable tax rates and loan terms.

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Donald Trump, Allen Weisselberg, and Donald Trump Jr.

Now that the Supreme Court has cleared the way for prosecutors to get Trump’s taxes, investigators have access to a potential treasure trove of information about the complex world of Trump’s business activities.

The tax returns themselves, as well as the communications about them, are at the very heart of the probe. Vance hired FTI, a forensic accounting firm, to help pore over the data. Alonso said it could take some time.

“In the main part of the investigation, which is about valuations and about potential tax, bank, and insurance fraud, from what we know in the public record, they need to analyze those millions of pages of documents that they picked up from Mazars,” Alonso said, referring to Trump’s accounting firm. “That’s not something that’s done overnight.”

By the end of the investigation, Alonso said, prosecutors will have a variety of paths to choose from depending on what they find.

“It might be that they charge the Trump organization itself, or one of its affiliated companies,” he said. “It might be that they charge the CFO Allen Weisselberg if he doesn’t cooperate. It might be that they charge one of the Trump children who helps manage the company. Or it might be that they charge a different executive. Or it might be nobody, at the end of the day.”

“If they can’t prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt, they shouldn’t be charging,” he added.

‘You’d better grab yourself some good lawyers’

In other parts of the investigation, prosecutors appear to be dotting I’s and crossing T’s.

Ralph Mastromonaco, an engineer who worked on Trump’s Seven Springs estate in upstate New York – the valuation of which is under scrutiny from prosecutors, according to the Wall Street Journal – was subpoenaed by Manhattan prosecutors in recent weeks. But he told Insider that everything he supplied to prosecutors was already in the public record and filed with the local township of Bedford.

John Dean, President Richard Nixon’s former White House counsel whose testimony about the Watergate scandal led to Nixon’s resignation, said Friday he believed Vance’s office could bring charges against Trump in just a matter of days.

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Donald Trump.

Dean based his observation on a Reuters report that said Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, was going to meet with Manhattan prosecutors for the seventh time.

Cohen pleaded guilty to several felonies stemming from investigations into Trump by the Manhattan US attorney’s office and the special counsel Robert Mueller. He testified to Congress in 2019 that Trump repeatedly inflated or deflated the value of his assets for loan and tax purposes, respectively, and he has extensively cooperated with prosecutors.

In a Friday morning tweet, Dean wrote that based on “personal experience as a key witness I assure you that you do not visit a prosecutor’s office 7 times if they are not planning to indict those about whom you have knowledge. It is only a matter of how many days until DA Vance indicts Donald & Co.”

Cramer emphasized that the precise timeline of the DA’s investigation is still hard to gauge.

“But when the Manhattan DA’s office has your tax returns and they’re bringing in hired guns like Pomerantz who specialize in this type of work,” he said, “You’d better grab yourself some good lawyers.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Here’s what Trump’s tax returns could mean for the investigations into his finances

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Donald Trump in his Trump Tower office in 2012.

  • The Supreme Court has paved the way for the Manhattan DA to get Donald Trump’s tax returns.
  • A former Trump Organization executive and Trump’s personal lawyer told Congress he kept two sets of books: One to pay low taxes, another for bank loan rates.
  • Prosecutors will be able to look at the evidence and see if the filings rise to financial crimes.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

This week, the US Supreme Court rejected a challenge from Donald Trump to keep his tax returns secret.

The ruling cleared the way for Manhattan prosecutors – who have been pursuing them for years – to finally get their hands on financial documents belonging to the former president and his companies.

Trump’s tax returns have become the subject of mystique over the past five years, as he became the first major-party nominee since Gerald Ford to not voluntarily release them.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s office, led by Cyrus Vance Jr., first sought Trump’s tax documents since it opened an investigation into his finances in 2017.

The precise scope of the investigation is unclear, but court filings suggest that Vance’s office is looking into whether the former president’s tax filings amounted to criminal tax fraud. If Trump were to be indicted for financial crimes, the tax returns would no doubt be a centerpiece for the charges.

Vance’s office is also reportedly looking into whether Donald Trump, Jr. and Allen Weisselberg, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, were involved in wrongdoing.

The investigation was first triggered after Michael Cohen, a former executive of the Trump Organization and personal lawyer to Trump, told Congress he used the company’s funds for hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who claims she had sex with Trump in 2006. Vance is looking into whether those payments broke laws as well.

Chief among the issues is whether – as Cohen testified – Trump kept two sets of books for his finances: One for favorable loan deals and another for low tax rates.

Jeff Robbins, a former attorney for the US Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations and federal prosecutor overseeing money-laundering probes, said keeping two sets of books could lead to a number of serious financial crimes.

“Inconsistency is not a crime. The intent to defraud is a crime,” Robbins told Insider. “What a prosecutor is going to be looking at is: Did Trump seek to defraud the government of the United States with respect to the valuation of assets and the paying of taxes? Was there an intent to defraud banks?”

Trump has gone to great lengths to keep his tax returns secret despite saying he wants to make them public

Trump initially said he would make them public, and then suggested the IRS would not allow their release while he was under audit. No such IRS rule exists.

He has also lied about severing ties to his own businesses, raising questions of whether he used his vast powers as president to make money for himself. Trump said in 2019 that the presidency was costing him up to $5 billion, but has steadfastly refused to furnish documents proving that claim.

In January 2017, Trump held a press conference with his three eldest children and pointed to a large pile of papers that he said showed he was withdrawing from the Trump Organization and giving all control over to Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. He has never permitted reporters to look at those purported documents.

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Eric Trump, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr, and Vice President-elect Mike Pence look on as President-elect Donald Trump conducts a press conference at Trump Tower in New York on January 11, 2017.

A 2020 investigation from The New York Times found and analyzed nearly two decades’ worth of Trump’s returns. It cited major revelations, including:

  • Trump paid $0 in federal taxes for the majority of the years reviewed and $750 during his first two years as president. At the same time, he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes to foreign governments.
  • He received tens of millions of dollars from foreign sources.
  • $300 million in loans are due to be paid back over the next several years.
  • He vastly overstated his charitable giving.
  • He has been involved in a yearslong battle with the IRS over a $73 million refund, which he may owe back to the federal government.
  • He appeared to have worked with his daughter Ivanka Trump to make up fake consulting fees as tax write-offs.
  • He apparently mischaracterized his 200-acre family retreat in upstate New York in tax filings to write off millions of dollars more.

Tax experts have described all of those findings as highly unusual, even among the hyper-rich who take advantage of obscure tax loopholes. Trump’s attempts to keep them secret have delayed the ability of prosecutors and judges to determine whether they amounted to tax crimes.

Vance has gone further than anyone else to obtain Trump’s returns, twice going to the Supreme Court to obtain them.

The subpoenas will also enable Vance to obtain other documents related to Trump’s taxes, including communications between the Trump Organization and its accountants at the accounting firm Mazars USA, as well as questions, complaints, concerns, instructions, and arguments for how to value certain assets.

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Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance arrives at federal court for a hearing related to President Donald Trump’s financial records on October 23, 2019 in New York City.

Robbins described these documents as “a potential treasure trove of admissions.”

“I’m sure prosecutors are looking at all sorts of contradictions in those documents,” Robbins, now the co-chair of the Congressional Investigations practice at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr, told Insider.

“If the taxpayer had taken a totally different position with respect to the asset in some other place, that would be very strong evidence of an intent to defraud,” he added.

Deutsche Bank, the Trump Organization’s chief lender, and Aon, its insurance broker, have already cooperated with Vance’s investigation, according to The New York Times.

Trump is also subject to at least two other financial investigations

In addition to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office investigation, New York Attorney General Letitia James is also looking into whether the Trump Organization kept two sets of books for its properties.

The House of Representatives’ Ways and Means Committee is also seeking to obtain Trump’s tax returns as part of an investigation into whether he interfered with the IRS’s audit program.

It is not clear if the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which oversees federal prosecutions in Manhattan, is also looking into Trump’s finances. It successfully obtained a guilty plea from Michael Cohen in 2018 for campaign-finance violations related to the Stormy Daniels hush-money payments.

letitia james
New York State Attorney General Letitia James in August.

And just because Vance will get Trump’s tax returns doesn’t mean everyone else will.

Under New York state law, evidence obtained for a grand jury – as Vance is doing here – must be kept under seal unless the case goes to court. Both James and the House have been mired in their own court challenges over Trump’s returns. Rep. Richard Neal, the chairman of the House committee, has cited Vance’s recent Supreme Court win as a mark of confidence that he’ll succeed in his own lawsuit.

James, the state attorney general, has been involved with several tangles with Trump, his family, and his company over financial matters.

In 2019, she secured a settlement with Trump and his children where they paid a $2 million fine and were barred from serving on charity boards in the state. The Trump Foundation, which was dissolved as part of the settlement, had used funds to bolster Trump’s political fortunes and for the then-candidate’s personal image.

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Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr.

A separate probe from James’ office is looking into whether the Trump Organization has misrepresented its assets, including the value and use of its properties, for tax benefits. The office interviewed Eric Trump, the current chief executive of the Trump Organization, in October.

Trump, his family members, and the Trump Organization have all denied wrongdoing.

Vance is not expected to run for reelection as Manhattan’s District Attorney this year. He recently hired Mark Pomerantz, a former mob prosecutor, to oversee the Trump team and ensure its continuity under a new administration.

The investigations into Trump’s finances aren’t the only legal perils he’s facing. He, his company, political operation, and numerous other businesses and organizations he’s affiliated with are staring down a tsunami of investigations. He also faces numerous civil lawsuits related to his business practices and sexual-assault accusations.

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New York prosecutors reportedly expanding criminal probe into Trump loans for his Manhattan properties

Trump Tower
People walk past the Trump Tower as the impeachment trial of Donald Trump begins in Washington on February 09, 2021 in New York City.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office is expanding its ongoing investigation into the financial dealings of former President Donald Trump relating to loans taken out on his flagship New York properties, the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday. 

According to the report, which cited sources familiar with the investigation, the new portions of the probe are related to loans to Trump by subsidiaries of New York City-based real estate investment trust Ladder Capital Corp. A $100 million loan on Trump Tower is due next year while other loans are due in the coming years, the report said.

The trust has lent the former president over $280 million for his four Manhattan properties since 2012, the report noted. The properties involved in the probe include Trump Tower, 40 Wall St., Trump International Hotel and Tower, Trump Plaza, all located in Manhattan. New York prosecutors are also investigating the Trump Organization’s Seven Springs property in Westchester County, according to the report.

Read more: Inside the glitzy, fractured world of Palm Beach, where Trump’s Mar-a-Lago move rankles locals but the wealthy are fighting over mansions anyway

It’s unclear exactly what the probe relates to, but experts told the Wall Street Journal that it may concern possible discrepancies with loan documents and financial information submitted on other documents, like his tax returns, according to the report.

The Manhattan DA’s office Saturday declined an Insider request to confirm the WSJ’s reporting.

As Insider previously reported, New York Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. are leading investigations into Trump’s personal finances and the finances of the Trump Organization.

Last year, Vance, a Democrat who this year faces a battle for reelection, won a Supreme Court ruling that confirmed he was able to obtain Trump’s tax returns and other financial documents, but Trump appealed the ruling again on different grounds. The Supreme Court has not said whether it plans to hear the former president’s second appeal.

Trump has called Vance’s investigation a “witch hunt,” while his lawyers called it a “fishing expedition,” as the Wall Street Journal noted Saturday. The Trump Organization did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.

Trump and his eponymous organization are under new scrutiny now that he is out of office. A Chicago judge earlier in February ruled that his Chicago hotel violated an environmental protection law for several years by improperly using water from the Chicago River to cool the building without the proper permit. 

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The New York prosecutor investigating Trump’s tax records is calling in reinforcements as the president’s time in office comes to an end

Donald Trump wildcard
US President Donald Trump looks on during a ceremony presenting the Presidential Medal of Freedom to wrestler Dan Gable in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on December 7, 2020.

  • Forensic accounting specialists have been brought on to help with the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s probe into President Donald Trump’s business transactions, The Washington Post reported. 
  • This is part of an ongoing investigation that’s expanded since it was opened two years ago. 
  • District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. asked FTI Consulting to advise prosecutors on whether or not Trump or his company altered the value of some assets for tax purposes. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office currently running a probe into President Donald Trump’s finances has tapped forensic accounting specialists for help, The Washington Post reported. 

District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. has expanded his initial 2018 probe into hush money paid to two women who say they had sexual relationships with Trump before he was president. Vance has now asked FTI Consulting to look for discrepancies among some property deals and consult with prosecutors on whether or not Trump’s company altered the value of some assets for tax breaks. 

Earlier this year, Vance asked a judge for eight years of Trump’s tax records on the grounds that media reports had identified “extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization. Trump has fought the release of those records in court, but Vance has also expanded the scope of the investigation since then. 

Vance interviewed bankers and insurers who work for the president this month. Investigators at the DA’s office spoke with employees of Trump’s primary lender, Deutsche Bank and Aon, his main insurer. 

Trump has recently expressed concern over the large scope of the investigation as his presidency comes to an end. 

“Now I hear that these same people that failed to get me in Washington have sent every piece of information to New York so that they can try to get me there,” Trump said in speech earlier this month. “It’s all been gone over, over, and over again.”

According to Jason Zirkle with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners who spoke to The Post, Vance may have hired the firm to help counter any arguments that the investigation is driven by political animus.

One source who asked to remain anonymous told The Post analysts with FTI Consulting may have already reviewed some of Trump’s dealings as part of a grand jury investigation and could potentially testify if criminal charges are filed. 

Vance’s office could not be reached for comment by phone at the time of publication and the Trump organization has not replied to Insider’s request for comment.

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