Cyrus Vance: Manhattan District Attorney Faces Critical Decisions In Trump Investigation As His Time In Office Is Running Out


One question that is being openly discussed among attorneys is whether Vance will act quickly and decide to charge a crime or close the investigation before leaving office, or whether he will leave those decisions to his successor.

“The case, if charged, is likely to be charged before Vance leaves office,” says Anne Milgram, former New Jersey attorney general and former federal prosecutor. “That’s because there are 10 months to go, which is a long time in a criminal investigation, and because the district attorney’s office had previously noted that there were statute of limitations,” he said.

Vance’s team of prosecutors has been investigating the Trump Organization for more than two years and received a significant boost to the investigation on Monday after the Supreme Court paved the way for investigators to receive tax returns, financial statements and other. Trump’s accountant records. , Mazars.

The district attorney received the records Monday, the office confirmed, and sources say there are millions of pages of documents to analyze.

“I think Cy is a serious person who cares about getting this right; this will be an important part of his legacy at the office,” said Eric Soufer, a former senior attorney for the New York Attorney General’s office now in Tusk. Strategies.

There are eight Democratic candidates running in the June primaries to succeed Vance, and the winner in Manhattan, with a large number of Democrats, would likely win the race in the November general election.

The field of contenders is diverse and includes former prosecutors, a public defender who competed on the reality series Survivor, a civil rights attorney, and an assemblyman from New York State.

They have been outspoken about criminal justice reform, reviewing the sex crimes unit and holding powerful people accountable, but the Trump investigation could hijack the race in a city that is decidedly against them.

“A race that can – on the one hand it can be very focused, fairly, on criminal justice reform – suddenly starts to become a little bit more of a referendum on how qualified you are to prosecute Donald Trump,” he said Soufer.

Who could take over the investigation?

If the decision to impeach the case rests with your successor, it will be a potentially thorny issue that you will have to address early on.

Alvin Bragg, a former federal prosecutor for the public corruption unit of the Manhattan United States Attorney’s Office and chief deputy attorney general of the New York Attorney General’s Office, has had a discussion with Trump before.

In the Attorney General’s office, he oversaw more than 100 lawsuits against Trump administration policies, from the travel ban to DACA, as well as the office’s lawsuit against the Trump Foundation, which alleged that Trump, his sons Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, violated the state. charity and campaign finance rules and “was little more than a checkbook to serve Trump’s business and political interests,” according to the lawsuit.

Trump was ordered to pay $ 2 million and the foundation agreed to dissolve as part of a deal, to which Trump reacted by saying, “The New York Attorney General is mischaracterizing this deal for political purposes.”

On the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation, Bragg said he could not specifically comment on what he would do with the investigation, but said it “has gone where events took me for more than 20 years.”

“We know what has been reported,” he said. “But we don’t know the full steps the office has taken, so I don’t want to make any assumptions.”

Others have been more vocal. Lucy Lang, who was a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for 12 years and left in 2018, called for Vance’s investigation into Trump to continue in December, saying that “immunity is not a consolation prize for losing a choice”.

“There have been a number of high-profile cases that give the appearance that there was some kind of special access. The next district attorney needs to make sure New Yorkers know that the powerful and the well-connected are held to the same standards. of justice, “Lang told CNN.

One of Lang’s advisers is Peirce Moser, a former prosecutor who led the office’s investigation into Trump Soho before he retired. Lang, who was not involved in the Trump SoHo probe, declined to comment on whether he would reopen it, if he won.

On criticism, Vance has said: “At the end of the day, we operate in the courtroom of law, not the courtroom of public opinion.”

Following the evidence

One thing several candidates can agree on is that whoever succeeds Vance must have a solid understanding of complex investigations.

Diana Florence, who was at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for 25 years, says she wants to prioritize prosecuting “crimes of power, not crimes of poverty,” but would not go into details about the Trump investigation.

“These cases never start the way they end, you always have to follow the evidence,” Florence told CNN.

Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor and, more recently, general counsel for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, says he will commit to holding anyone who has broken the laws, including Trump, accountable but would approach those investigations with “an open mind. “.

“To be absolutely clear, prosecuting Trump in the Manhattan district attorney’s office is not about politics. It’s not about holding him accountable for what kind of president he was. Or what kind of politics he tried to put on the world. “Weinstein said. CNN. “The question is, did he violate the laws, or did his associates … violate the laws of New York State and harm New Yorkers?”

Manhattan public defender Eliza Orlins, who also appeared on the Survivor series, has been tweeting about Trump since the election, including in December saying, “Presidents cannot forgive ANYONE for crimes committed in New York State.”

“There’s nothing I’m not going to investigate, because I think that holding people who are rich and powerful and just think they can wield that power and wealth not be held accountable is, you know, just unacceptable,” Orlins told CNN. .

Civil rights lawyer Tahani Aboushi rushed to JFK airport in the wake of Trump’s travel ban, where she spent days helping travelers, many of them in detention, who were unaware of the new policy. “It was chaos,” Aboushi told CNN. “People were petrified.”

However, Aboushi says he wants to remain neutral when it comes to discussing Trump’s ongoing investigation, emphasizing that he would address the investigations that have gone through the office.

“I think what people expect with the response to Trump is whether the powerful and the privileged will be subject to the same system by which the rest of us are prosecuted.” Aboushi said. “And that’s what I promise is not to put any identification card or bank account above the law.”

Another candidate is Dan Quart, a tenant rights attorney and member of the New York State Assembly. Before announcing that he was running for district attorney, he voted in favor of two bills in the state legislature that were intended to limit Trump’s authority while he was president – one was intended to weaken a president’s power of pardon by shutting down. one double jeopardy loophole in the state, and the other would allow the state to turn over Trump’s tax returns to Congress.

He also criticized Trump for targeting whether he paid enough in taxes, after a 2018 New York Times report alleged that Trump participated in “dubious tax schemes during the 1990s, including outright fraud.”
“For years, while millions of workers paid their fair share in taxes, Donald Trump was cheating the system, enriching himself and his family,” Quart told City and State in 2019. “The facts point to a constant pattern of fraud and deception that warrants an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney. ”

Now, as a candidate in the race, Quart is more reserved about how he feels about the research.

“If there is evidence that a felony has been committed, I will prosecute it, and that is as true for the former president as it is for anyone else,” Quart told CNN.

For Liz Crotty, who spent six years in the Manhattan district attorney’s office, including under Vance, staying quiet about the Trump Organization’s trade deal probe is the right thing to do for any candidate taken in. serious the possibility of assuming the position.

“I’m going to follow the party line (which) is that until I know the facts, I can’t commit to anything,” Crotty told CNN. “It is the only responsible answer.”

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