New Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg Derailed The Impending Indictment Of Donald Trump

Back in December, newly elected Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg pledged to focus on Trump investigations:

The next Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg Jr., says he plans to personally focus on the high-profile probe into former President Donald Trump’s business practices and may expand the investigative team while keeping at least one senior prosecutor on the case.

Bragg, who will be sworn into office on January 1, said he hasn’t been briefed on the facts of the Trump case, which is before a state grand jury. But he indicated he has no plans to disrupt the investigation he’s inheriting even as he also wants to focus on his own agenda.

“This is obviously a consequential case, one that merits the attention of the DA personally,” Bragg said in a recent interview over lunch in Harlem.

Carey Dunne, general counsel to the current District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. who argued successfully before the Supreme Court to get Trump’s taxes, has agreed to continue on the case, people familiar with his decision told CNN. Bragg said he would like Mark Pomerantz, a highly regarded attorney with deep knowledge of financial investigations who was recruited by Vance to steer with the investigation, to also stay.

“It’s hard for me to evaluate not knowing the facts, but just having worked on lots of investigations that are complex, I can say that you’ve got two very good lawyers that have been looking at it for a while. I think it would be a disservice to Manhattan to lose them,” Bragg said.

Yeah, that’s what Bragg said in December. By February, 2 Prosecutors Leading N.Y. Trump Inquiry Resign, Clouding Case’s Future:

The two prosecutors leading the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into former President Donald J. Trump and his business practices abruptly resigned on Wednesday amid a monthlong pause in their presentation of evidence to a grand jury, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The unexpected development came not long after the high-stakes inquiry appeared to be gaining momentum and now throws its future into serious doubt.

The prosecutors, Carey R. Dunne and Mark F. Pomerantz, submitted their resignations because the new Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, indicated to them that he had doubts about moving forward with a case against Mr. Trump, the people said.

Mr. Pomerantz confirmed in a brief interview that he had resigned but declined to elaborate. Mr. Dunne declined to comment.

Without Mr. Bragg’s commitment to move forward, the prosecutors late last month postponed a plan to question at least one witness before the grand jury, one of the people said. They have not questioned any witnesses in front of the grand jury for more than a month, essentially pausing their investigation into whether Mr. Trump inflated the value of his assets to obtain favorable loan terms from banks.

The precise reasons for Mr. Bragg’s pullback are unknown, and he has made few public statements about the status of the inquiry since taking office, but the prosecutors had encountered a number of challenges in pursuing Mr. Trump. Notably, they had thus far been unable to persuade any Trump Organization executives to cooperate and turn on Mr. Trump.

In a statement responding to the resignations of the prosecutors, a spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg said that he was “grateful for their service” and that the investigation was ongoing. [Doubtful.]

[W]ithout Mr. Dunne, a high-ranking veteran of the office who has been closely involved with the inquiry for years, and Mr. Pomerantz, a leading figure in New York legal circles who was enlisted to work on it, the yearslong investigation could peter out.

Time is running out for this grand jury, whose term is scheduled to expire in April.

The resignations mark a reversal after the investigation had recently intensified. Cyrus R. Vance Jr., Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, convened the grand jury in the fall, and prosecutors began questioning witnesses before his term concluded at the end of the year. (Mr. Vance did not seek re-election.)

In mid-January, reporters for The New York Times observed significant activity related to the investigation at the Lower Manhattan courthouse where the grand jury meets, with at least two witnesses visiting the building and staying inside for hours.

The witnesses were Mr. Trump’s longtime accountant and an expert in the real estate industry, according to people familiar with the appearances, which have not been previously reported. Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz also made regular appearances at the courthouse.

The burst of activity offered a sign that Mr. Bragg was forging ahead with the grand jury phase of the investigation, a final step before seeking charges.

But in recent weeks, that activity has ceased, and Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz have been seen only rarely.

Now we have a new revelation into the resignation of the lead prosecutors in this case.

The New York Times reports, Trump Is Guilty of ‘Numerous’ Felonies, Prosecutor Who Resigned Says:

One of the senior Manhattan prosecutors who investigated Donald J. Trump believed that the former president was “guilty of numerous felony violations” and that it was “a grave failure of justice” not to hold him accountable, according to a copy of his resignation letter.

The prosecutor, Mark F. Pomerantz, submitted his resignation last month after the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, abruptly stopped pursuing an indictment of Mr. Trump.

Mr. Pomerantz, 70, a prominent former federal prosecutor and white-collar defense lawyer who came out of retirement to work on the Trump investigation, resigned on the same day as Carey R. Dunne, another senior prosecutor leading the inquiry.

Mr. Pomerantz’s Feb. 23 letter, obtained by The New York Times, offers a personal account of his decision to resign and for the first time states explicitly his belief that the office could have convicted the former president. Mr. Bragg’s decision was “contrary to the public interest,” he wrote.

“The team that has been investigating Mr. Trump harbors no doubt about whether he committed crimes — he did,” Mr. Pomerantz wrote.

Mr. Pomerantz and Mr. Dunne planned to charge Mr. Trump with falsifying business records, specifically his annual financial statements — a felony in New York State.

Mr. Bragg’s decision not to pursue charges then — and the resignations that followed — threw the fate of the long-running investigation into serious doubt. If the prosecutors had secured an indictment of Mr. Trump, it would have been the highest-profile case ever brought by the Manhattan district attorney’s office and would have made Mr. Trump the first American president to face criminal charges.

Earlier this month, The Times reported that the investigation unraveled after weeks of escalating disagreement between the veteran prosecutors overseeing the case and the new district attorney. Much of the debate centered on whether the prosecutors could prove that Mr. Trump knowingly falsified the value of his assets on annual financial statements, The Times found, a necessary element to proving the case.

While Mr. Dunne and Mr. Pomerantz were confident that the office could demonstrate that the former president had intended to inflate the value of his golf clubs, hotels and office buildings, Mr. Bragg was not. He balked at pursuing an indictment against Mr. Trump, a decision that shut down Mr. Pomerantz’s and Mr. Dunne’s presentation of evidence to a grand jury and prompted their resignations.

Mr. Bragg has said that his office continues to conduct the investigation. [Obviously not.] For that reason, Mr. Bragg, a former federal prosecutor and deputy New York State attorney general who became district attorney in January, is barred from commenting on its specifics.

Mr. Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., had decided in his final days in office to move toward an indictment, leaving Mr. Trump just weeks away from likely criminal charges. [Cyrus Vance, Jr. should have done this before he left office. I blame him.] Mr. Bragg’s decision seems, for now at least, to have removed one of the greatest legal threats Mr. Trump has ever faced.

Cable jockey commentators are avoiding questioning Bragg’s motives, but I will not. The lawyers working on this case were an A-Team of financial crimes experts, far more knowledgeable and experienced than Alvin Bragg. Who is he to question their legal judgment and skills? Who got to him? What’s in it for him? Alvin Bragg has to answer a lot of questions for a decision that is clearly “contrary to the public interest.” Are we now looking at a public corruption case? Inquiring minds want to know.

The resignation letter cast a harsh light on that decision from the perspective of Mr. Pomerantz, who wrote that he believed there was enough evidence to prove Mr. Trump’s guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.”

“No case is perfect,” Mr. Pomerantz wrote. “Whatever the risks of bringing the case may be, I am convinced that a failure to prosecute will pose much greater risks in terms of public confidence in the fair administration of justice.

Got that right!

[Mr.] Pomerantz, who confirmed his resignation in a brief interview last month, declined to comment on the letter when contacted by The Times this week.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Bragg, Danielle Filson, said that the investigation was continuing and added: “A team of experienced prosecutors is working every day to follow the facts and the law. There is nothing more we can or should say at this juncture about an ongoing investigation.”

In his letter, Mr. Pomerantz acknowledged that Mr. Bragg “devoted significant time and energy to understanding the evidence” in the inquiry and had made his decision in good faith. But, he wrote, “a decision made in good faith may nevertheless be wrong.”

[Mr.] Pomerantz’s letter said that shortly before leaving office, Mr. Vance had directed the prosecutors to pursue an indictment of Mr. Trump as well as “other defendants as soon as reasonably possible.”

The letter did not name the other defendants, but the recent Times article reported that the prosecutors envisioned also charging Mr. Trump’s family business and his longtime chief financial officer, Allen H. Weisselberg, who had already been indicted along with the company last year, accused of a yearslong scheme to evade taxes.

Mr. Bragg has told aides that the inquiry could move forward if a new piece of evidence is unearthed, or if a Trump Organization insider decides to turn on Mr. Trump. Some investigators in the office saw either possibility as highly unlikely.

What this tells me is that Bragg is convinced that he needs “the bookkeeper” to turn on Al Capone, and Allen Weisselberg and his son are loyal capos willing to go to prison for Donald Trump. They would not turn state’s witness.

“There are always additional facts to be pursued,” Mr. Pomerantz wrote in his letter. “But the investigative team that has been working on this matter for many months does not believe that it makes law enforcement sense to postpone a prosecution in the hope that additional evidence will somehow emerge.”

He added that “I and others believe that your decision not to authorize prosecution now will doom any future prospects that Mr. Trump will be prosecuted for the criminal conduct we have been investigating.”

[I]nitially, Mr. Pomerantz and Mr. Dunne had envisioned charging Mr. Trump with the crime of “scheme to defraud,” believing that he falsely inflated his assets on the statements of financial condition that had been used to obtain bank loans. But by the end of the year, they had changed course and planned to charge Mr. Trump with falsifying business records — a simpler case that essentially amounted to painting Mr. Trump as a liar rather than a thief.

Mr. Pomerantz, who joined the investigation more than a year ago, said in the letter that Mr. Trump’s financial statements were “false” — that he had lied about his assets to “banks, the national media, counterparties, and many others, including the American people.”

Mr. Pomerantz is not the only one involved in the investigation to suggest that Mr. Trump or his company broke the law. The New York attorney general, Letitia James, whose office is assisting the criminal investigation and conducting its own civil inquiry, has filed court papers in the civil matter arguing that she has evidence showing that the Trump Organization had engaged in “fraudulent or misleading” practices.

Ms. James’s inquiry, which can lead to a lawsuit but not criminal charges, continues as she seeks to question Mr. Trump and two of his adult children under oath. The Trumps recently appealed a judge’s order that they submit to Ms. James’s questioning.

In another court filing, Ms. James disclosed that Mr. Trump’s longtime accounting firm, Mazars USA, had falsificationcut ties with him and essentially retracted a decade’s worth of his financial statements.

Mazars was shaping up to be a crucial witness in the criminal investigation as well. In January, Mr. Pomerantz questioned Mr. Trump’s accountant at Mazars before the grand jury, zeroing in on exaggerations in the financial statements.

But the statements also contained disclaimers, including acknowledgments that Mazars had neither audited nor authenticated Mr. Trump’s claims, potentially complicating the case. And some of Mr. Bragg’s supporters have argued that it would have been a difficult case to win.

Still, Mr. Pomerantz wrote that he and other prosecutors believed that they had amassed sufficient evidence to establish the former president’s guilt, writing that, “We believe that the prosecution would prevail if charges were brought and the matter were tried to an impartial jury.”

Addressing an apparent belief in Mr. Bragg’s office that they might lose at trial, Mr. Pomerantz wrote, “Respect for the rule of law, and the need to reinforce the bedrock proposition that ‘no man is above the law,’ require that this prosecution be brought even if a conviction is not certain.”

Mr. Pomerantz is a former head of the criminal division in the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, as well as a longtime defense lawyer. He worked on the Trump investigation pro bono.

Mr. Dunne at the time was serving as Mr. Vance’s general counsel, a job he had held since early 2017. In that role, he had successfully argued before the Supreme Court, winning access to Mr. Trump’s tax records.

Mr. Dunne has declined to comment.




2 thoughts on “New Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg Derailed The Impending Indictment Of Donald Trump”

  1. UPDATE 3/28/22: “Trump suffers another blow as judge orders his business to hand over documents sought by NY AG”, https://www.rawstory.com/judge-order-trump-org-to-hand-over-documents-sought-by-ny-ag/

    A judge in New York ruled this Monday that the Trump Organization must hand over documents that state Attorney General Letitia James subpoenaed for her civil-fraud investigation of the company, the Wall Street Journal reports.

    The judge ordered the company to substantially comply by April 15 and fully comply two weeks later. The subpoenas are from early in the investigation regarding materials that included information held on Trump Organization employees’ devices.

    “We are in a truly unusual place with these subpoenas that have been outstanding for two years and three months,” Austin Thompson, a lawyer for the attorney general’s office, told the judge.

    The Trumps have repeatedly tried to shut down the investigation. James has said she had uncovered “significant evidence” of fraudulent or misleading practices at the Trump Organization.

    If James finds evidence of financial misconduct she can sue the Trump Organization for damages but cannot file criminal charges.

    The Manhattan district attorney’s probe into possible financial crimes and insurance fraud is very similar, however.

    In that case, the Trump Organization and its long-serving finance chief, Allen Weisselberg, pleaded not guilty in a New York court to 15 felony fraud and tax evasion charges in July last year.

    His trial is due to begin in the middle of this year.

  2. UPDATE: The Daily Beast reports, “Why Is the Manhattan DA Returning Evidence in Trump Case?”, https://www.thedailybeast.com/why-is-the-manhattan-district-attorney-returning-evidence-to-witnesses-in-the-donald-trump-case?ref=home

    Prosecutors have been sending back documents to people who turned over information about former President Donald Trump’s business, in perhaps the starkest sign yet that the Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into Trump may be winding down.

    According to two people familiar with the situation, witnesses who had turned over key documents to investigators have suddenly been getting their evidence back in recent weeks.

    Returning evidence is often a sign that an investigation is concluding, and the news comes one day after The New York Times published a leaked copy of a resignation letter from a top prosecutor who quit out of frustration that the new head of the office, District Attorney Alvin Leonard Bragg Jr., seems disinclined to criminally charge Trump.

    [In] response to questions Thursday, the DA’s office sent The Daily Beast a statement it had already released this week: “The investigation continues. A team of experienced prosecutors is working every day to follow the facts and the law. There is nothing we can or should say at this juncture about an ongoing investigation.”

    [It’s] been eight months since a grand jury indicted the company and then-CFO Allen Weisselberg. And yet the high-ranking executive hasn’t shown any signs of flipping on his boss. Turning him into a state’s witness would be key, given that the tax fraud investigation is proceeding akin to a mob takedown—with Trump at the top.

    Potential criminal charges—with similar allegations of receiving fringe company benefits—never actually materialized against chief operating officer Matthew Calamari Sr. His defense attorney, Nicholas Gravante, has previously stated that he received indications that his client would not be indicted.

    [B]ragg’s decision to not indict Trump at the moment—detailed in Pomerantz’s letter—has left several witnesses who helped in the investigation feeling used and disillusioned.

    Jennifer Weisselberg, the ex-wife of the CFO’s son, became a witness in the investigation when prosecutors compelled her to speak to investigators. She has publicly detailed how Trump himself signed the checks that prosecutors cited in their indictment as untaxed corporate benefits to her family that skirted the law.

    After emptying a retirement account to pay for lawyers to guide her through this legal process and a custody battle, she said the decision to not pursue criminal charges against Trump “lessens my credibility by saying that there really isn’t a case there.”

    “When you stand up and speak the truth against really scary people by yourself… I chose to be brave, and it seems like it was all in vain,” she said. “I feel like it’s an injustice to me.”

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