Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance filed court papers on Monday indicating that the ongoing battle to obtain President Donald Trump’s financial documents is part of a criminal investigation that has a significantly broader focus than the hush money payments Michael Cohen orchestrated ahead of the 2016 election.
According to several legal experts, the revelation that the contours of the investigation will include bank and insurance fraud likely spelled “bad news” for Trump and his family business.
Trump previously argued that a subpoena for eight years of his personal and corporate tax records was overbroad and being made in bad faith. While prosecutors did not outright confirm the exact parameters of their probe, the filing stated that any argument grounded in the notion that the investigation is limited to hush money payments is “baseless.”
Referencing the New York Times exposé on the Trump family’s alleged multi-decade tax fraud scheme, prosecutors said they had ample evidence of “possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.”
Emphasizing the way prosecutors categorized the conduct under investigation, national security attorney Mark Zaid said, “The horses have most definitely left the gates and are racing towards the finish line.”
Former U.S. Attorney Joyce White Vance said that the work of investigative journalists functioning as a precursor to a criminal investigation is nothing new.
Former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig said the revelation does not portend well for Trump, as potential charges could be easier to prosecute than previously believed.
“Bad news for the President,” Honig wrote. “This shows the DA is focused on specific criminal charges and not just poking around the financials. And it’s much easier to build a standard bank fraud or tax fraud case than the complex hush money / campaign finance case.”
Ken White, also a former federal prosecutor, noted that state prosecutors are far more likely to take risks that most Assistant U.S. Attorneys (AUSA) wouldn’t, meaning the case against Trump won’t have to be as strong for Vance’s office to pursue charges.
“That means DAs will roll the dice on questionable proof and even more questionable legal theories, meaning if the case is marginal, and it could be a state or federal crime, it’s far more likely a DA will charge you than an AUSA,” he wrote.
Vance, a Democrat, is a three-term incumbent.
University of Michigan law professor and former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan Barbara McQuade pointed out that Vance hired Bill Clinton-era Assistant Attorney General Walter Dellinger to appear for arguments before the court in the subpoena case.
[Photo by SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images]
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