The New York attorney general’s two-year civil probe into the Trump Organization is now a criminal investigation. Here’s what we know so far. USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — The prosecutor overseeing the criminal probe into former President Donald Trump, his close orbit and his business has convened a grand jury that could decide on any indictments, according to a report on Tuesday.
The Washington Post first reported that Cyrus Vance, the Manhattan district attorney, recently convened the grand jury that will sit three days a week for six months. According to the Post, the grand jury will hear several matters beyond just Trump’s during that time.
The investigation has been examining potential tax and bank-related fraud. Prosecutors are especially interested in whether Trump overvalued his properties and obscured debts in order to obtain valuable loans and other financial negotiations.
The convening of the grand jury indicates that Vance believes he has a case against Trump or someone else in his orbit.
The news comes after New York Attorney General Letitia James announced she’s joining forces with Vance in a criminal investigation of the Trump Organization, upping the pressure on Trump and his associates from what was previously a civil matter.
Vance’s office declined to comment. The New York State Attorney General’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw organized crime investigations, said the involvement of a local grand jury suggests that an indictment is “highly likely.”
“My guess… is that Vance feels he has the evidence to get an indictment and is in a hurry to get it presented so he can get the indictment voted and filed,” Cotter said.
“That will take some time, and there is other work needed to finalize an indictment, but I imagine that an indictment is essentially imminent.”
However, Bradley P. Moss, a national security lawyer, underscored that there remain a number of unknowns about any potential case.
“We do not know how expansive the New York investigation is right now, nor do we know if Vance is simply using the grand jury process as a vehicle to get access to more information or, alternatively, planning to bring actual charges before it for consideration,” he said.
“Plus, if Vance does intend to seek an indictment against Trump or the kids, it is likely that will be the last step taken, and only after he has first rolled up cooperating witnesses like Weisselberg,” Moss added.
Allen Weisselberg is chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. Last month, the Washington Post reported that investigators from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office took possession of financial records from the home of Weisselberg’s former daughter-in-law, Jennifer Weisselberg.
Trump, who now lacks the immunity from prosecution he had as president and the power to pardon his allies, has cast the investigation as politically motivated.
“There is nothing more corrupt than an investigation that is in desperate search of a crime,” Trump has previously said of the investigation. “But, make no mistake, that is exactly what is happening here.”
David Weinstein, a former Miami federal prosecutor, said the reported involvement of a Manhattan grand jury is no more ominous than the recent announcement that New York Attorney General Letitia James had joined Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus’ Vance’s investigation.
“This just means that Vance is moving forward,” Weinstein said. “He is presenting the evidence that he has collected to the grand jury, he will be calling witnesses to testify and that at some point before his term, as well as the term of the special grand jury, expires he will be presenting a proposed indictment for their consideration.”
Vance has announced that he is not seeking re-election this year as Manhattan’s chief prosecutor.
Contributing: Matthew Brown, Kevin Johnson, David Jackson and Joshua Meyer.
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