Manhattan district attorney was ‘weeks’ away from filing criminal charges against Trump in 2020, when he was still president, says former prosecutor

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump.LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images

  • The Manhattan District Attorney’s office was weeks away from filing criminal charges against Trump in late 2020.

  • That’s according to a new book by former special assistant district attorney Mark Pomerantz.

  • Pomerantz resigned from office when new District Attorney Alvin Bragg opted not to pursue an indictment against Trump.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office was weeks away from filing criminal charges against then-President Donald Trump in late 2020, but backed down when city attorneys downplayed Trump’s alleged underestimation of a historic building in the financial district, Mark Pomerantz, a former special assistant district attorney, says in his new book, “People vs. Donald Trump,” out Tuesday.

Pomerantz was initially involved in the Trump investigation as a consultant in late 2020 to the investigation’s lead prosecutor, Carey Dunne.

During a call with other “lawful eagles” recruited to advise then-Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance’s office on the Trump investigation, Pomerantz said he had been told the district was “considering bringing a criminal charge against Trump in a matter of weeks, not months.”

Investigators wanted to accuse Trump of underestimating his stake in 40 Wall Street, a building in lower Manhattan. While Trump valued his interest in the building at up to $527 million in a 2012 financial filing, he told tax authorities his interest in him was worth only between $16 and $19 million.

“This figure was so low it was absurd,” Pomerantz said, as The New York Times reported a few months earlier that annual rental income for the building had risen to more than $40 million by 2018.

“That meant he told the tax authorities that the combined value of his stake in 40 Wall Street was less than he was making in a single year!” Pomerantz explained.

Prosecutors explained to Pomerantz and other legal experts in a late 2020 call that Trump “had personally signed forms attesting to the accuracy of the absurdly low assessment” and that Trump’s tax return appeared fraudulent.

The role of Pomerantz and the other legal experts called to consult on the case was to “provide a reality check” on whether or not to indict Trump, given that accusing an incumbent president of financial crimes “would be a dramatic step of cosmic significance.”

The investigation team at the time was facing setbacks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, which had stalled the formation of grand juries. In New York, to bring felony charges, prosecutors must present their evidence to a grand jury, which then decides whether there is enough evidence to support the charges.

Pomerantz said the district attorney’s office has found a loophole though: file a felony complaint. Instead of going directly to a grand jury, prosecutors planned to take their case to a judge for permission to file a criminal complaint. This rarely used method allowed them to press charges before later presenting evidence to a grand jury, when they would return to hearings.

But Pomerantz said this plan “never got off the ground” because the city’s legal department told the district attorney’s office that it’s common practice for property owners to intentionally undervalue their properties.

“Low valuations are presented ‘under penalty of perjury,’ but according to the Legal Department, the owner’s initial valuation figures are not taken seriously and are viewed as merely the first step in a series of negotiations,” Pomerantz writes.

While Pomerantz said he didn’t particularly agree with the idea that Trump shouldn’t be charged just because “everyone is doing it,” he said the Legal Department’s explanation of how the system works showed it would be hard to prove that Trump “he was intended to mislead anyone”.

“While this seemed like a shoddy way for the city to conduct its business, to initiate a prosecution based on a filing that no one cared about or acted upon, and to do so as an opening move in a court case against a president, It didn’t strike me, Carey, Cy or anyone involved in the investigation as a good idea,” Pomerantz said.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s investigation into Trump never resulted in charges, after Alvin Bragg took over as the new district attorney in January 2022.

Pomerantz resigned as assistant special district attorney a month later, explaining in a letter that he was frustrated with Bragg’s decision not to pursue an indictment against Trump.

His new book details his involvement in the investigation.

Bragg told Insider in a statement that after carefully examining the investigation’s evidence, he came to the conclusion that “more work was needed.”

“Our experienced and professional legal team continues to pursue the facts of this case wherever they may lead, without fear or favor. Mr. Pomerantz made the decision to step down a year ago and sign a book deal,” Bragg said.

“I have not read the book and will not comment on any ongoing investigations because of the damage it could cause to the case. But I hope there is at least one section where Mr. Pomerantz acknowledges his former colleagues for what they have achieved on the Trump issue in the last year since his departure,” added Bragg.

A Trump rep did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment late Monday.

Although Bragg’s office has not filed criminal charges against Trump personally, it has gone ahead with felony fraud charges against Allen Weisselberg, the longtime chief financial officer of the Trump Organizaton, resulting in a guilty plea.

In November, the former executive testified at the Trump Organization trial, which was found guilty.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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