Donald Trump’s criminal prosecution in his hometown appears to be mostly over, at least for now. In an unexpected reversal of roles, Alvin Bragg, who took over as Manhattan district attorney in January after campaigning on a promise to hold the former president accountable, instead appears to have all but dropped the case brought by his predecessor Cyrus Vance. , Jr., a prosecutor often criticized for his shyness.
Before completing his third term as Manhattan DA, Vance’s office successfully took his case against Trump to the Supreme Court twice. His office then indicted both Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, and its former chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, for tax charges. Prosecutors under Vance reportedly focused on whether Trump criminally manipulated sworn statements of his net worth to trick banks into granting him favorable loans and government authorities into falsely cutting his taxes.
The former president denied the allegations and accused the Manhattan district attorney’s office of conducting a political witch hunt. But there were signs that investigators were making progress. This month, Mazars USA, the accounting firm that had long handled Trump’s affairs, essentially fired him as a client, saying it could not guarantee the accuracy of Trump’s nine-year financials. A second grand jury was convened last November to hear the prosecutor’s ongoing case against Trump, and its term does not expire until April.
Wednesday, the Times reported that the two most prominent prosecutors overseeing the case had unceremoniously resigned. Carey Dunne and Mark Pomerantz tendered their resignations after Bragg signaled he lacked confidence in the landmark case. During his campaign last year, and in the weeks before he took office, Bragg had, however, signaled that he would personally review the investigation and expressed his appreciation for the work of the two veteran prosecutors. “This is obviously a substantial case, which personally deserves the attention of the prosecutor,” he said. told CNN, in December. “I can tell you have two very good lawyers who have been looking at it for some time. I think it would be doing Manhattan a disservice to lose them.
Dunne and Pomerantz, who had both had high-profile legal careers in private practice before working on the Manhattan prosecutor’s investigation, disagreed with Bragg and wanted to continue pressing the case. , according to a source familiar with the investigation. They, however, became frustrated with what they saw as Bragg’s lack of support for the probe. The source suggested career prosecutors in the bureau’s investigations division had also questioned the strength of the case.
In the past, career prosecutors in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office have blocked other high-risk cases, including Harvey Weinstein’s potential first sexual assault prosecution. Vance’s office eventually convicted Weinstein, but that was years after a victim filed a police report. A person with ties to the prosecutor’s office, who asked not to be named, said Bragg’s decision raised questions about whether he would show himself to be strong enough to overcome the office’s institutional inertia. “Those two guys who quit today are pros,” the source said, referring to Dunne and Pomerantz. “I was told they just thought Bragg wasn’t going to commit, and they needed the DA to be engaged in order to take action.” Bragg, the source added, had given prosecutors the impression he was distracted and disengaged, often checking his phone during meetings on the case. (A DA spokesperson said both claims are false.) The Washington To post, meanwhile, reported that Bragg was slow to meet with Dunne and Pomerantz after taking office. When Bragg met with the two prosecutors, he didn’t seem deeply interested in the investigation.
A spokesperson for Bragg told the Times that the investigation would continue without the two prosecutors and that the prosecutor was “grateful for their service”. But the source with knowledge of the investigation said that while Bragg can say it is ongoing, activity in the case has stalled. In essence, Bragg reversed an exit decision. So far, his reasoning remains opaque.
The case was still a high-flying act. Unlike the parallel civil case being investigated by New York Attorney General Letitia James, who only needs to meet a “preponderance of the evidence” threshold to find Trump liable for having broken the law, the DA’s criminal case would have had to convince a jury “beyond a reasonable doubt” that Trump had criminal intent to defraud. Real estate appraisals of the type that Trump was being investigated for manipulation are also often slippery, but Vance’s team had hoped to prove that Trump had engaged in a decades-long criminal fraud scheme. Dunne, in particular, spent years on the investigation and, although he and Pomerantz apparently never thought the case would be easy, they both thought it had merit.
Trump, meanwhile, has denounced the prosecutors investigating him, which includes both Bragg and James, who are black, as “racists.” He also faces criminal investigations outside of Manhattan, including one in Fulton County, Georgia, where judges approved a local district attorney’s request to convene a grand jury to weigh charges against Trump resulting of his alleged attempt to pressure officials to reverse his loss in the state’s 2020 presidential election. While Manhattan may be ending Trump’s business pursuit, the district attorney’s office in suburban Westchester County has opened a separate criminal investigation into his business activities there. As the Times reportedthe Westchester District Attorney is investigating the finances of the Trump National Golf Club in the county.
Michael Cohen, a former attorney and close confidant of the ex-president who pleaded guilty to breaking campaign finance laws on Trump’s behalf, said a decision not to charge would be “a dereliction of duty to all New Yorkers and the country.” Cohen added that he had expected to testify himself against his former boss in front of the grand jury: “I know the information in NYDA’s possession,” he said.