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Politics What SCOTUS ruling means for Manhattan DA's Trump criminal investigation

01:05  23 february  2021
01:05  23 february  2021 Source:   cnn.com

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After 17 months and two trips to the US Supreme Court , the Manhattan district attorney' s criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump ' s business has received a significant boost with investigators now able to pour over Trump ' s tax returns and financial records.

The Supreme Court ruled 7-2 affirming that the Manhattan district attorney can subpoena the president’ s tax records but also In the decision allowing Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance to subpoena Trump ’ s taxes in a criminal case about suspected hush-money Reacting to the news, Trump angrily tweeted about the rulings . Billie Lourd’ s L.A. estate has been the scene of a crime investigation .

After 17 months and two trips to the US Supreme Court, the Manhattan district attorney's criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump's business has received a significant boost with investigators now able to pour over Trump's tax returns and financial records.

Donald Trump wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a crowd: The Manhattan district attorney's office is expected to have access to tax returns and financial records for Donald Trump and Trumg Org within the next few days. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images) © Drew Angerer/Getty Images The Manhattan district attorney's office is expected to have access to tax returns and financial records for Donald Trump and Trumg Org within the next few days. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The district attorney's office, led by Cyrus Vance, is expected to have access to the records within the next few days, according to people familiar with the matter.

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Trump ’ s tweets came after a Supreme Court decision upheld a Manhattan grand jury subpoena seeking his tax returns and other financial documents as part of a criminal investigation into the practices of the Trump Organization. In response, Trump complained that former President Barack Obama was not receiving enough scrutiny over his administration’ s decision to open up a counterintelligence investigation into alleged ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government in 2016.

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. on Thursday praised a Supreme Court ruling that upheld his office' s subpoena of President Trump Donald Trump Palm Beach reviewing Trump ' s residency at Mar-a-Lago Immigration reform can't wait On The Money: Five questions about the But the Supreme Court ruled in a 7-2 opinion that the U. S . Constitution does not "categorically preclude, or require a heightened standard for, the issuance of a state criminal subpoena to a sitting President." The court remanded the case back to a lower court. The Supreme Court also released a separate opinion on

Vance's office and Trump's long-time accounting firm Mazars USA, which was subpoenaed for the records, have been in discussions for months about how the documents, mainly in electronic form, would be handed over securely, these people said.

Once prosecutors have the tax-related records in hand, they will be able to dig deeper into investigative theories, pursue interviews with key witnesses, and determine whether they believe any state laws have been violated.

In addition to the tax returns going back to 2011, Vance has subpoenaed four other categories of documents, including financial statements, engagement agreements, documents relating to the preparation and review of tax returns, and work papers and communications related to the tax returns.

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The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance on Monday, stating he can legally obtain eight years’ worth of Trump ’ s tax records for his grand jury investigation into the ex-president’ s business organization. Trump has released an angry reaction to the SCOTUS decision, calling He predicted the returns will ultimately show Trump ’ s involvement in hush money payments, and that his former boss will eventually go to prison as a result of Vance’ s criminal investigations . “One thing I can turn around and tell you, he should start maybe speaking to someone about getting a

Blow: The Supreme Court ruling means a Manhattan grand jury must be provided with Trump ' s tax returns by his longtime accounting firm Mazars USA. Hand them over: Only a tiny portion of Donald Trump ' s tax returns have ever seen the light of day but Manhattan DA Cy Vance now has the approval of the Supreme Court to subpoena the ex-president' s longtime accounting firm for them. Stepping up investigation : Cy Vance Jr., the Manhattan district attorney has hired a high-profile former prosecutor who led the case against John Gotti and who just re-interviewed Michael Cohen, Trump ' s one-time Mr

The records may be critical to the investigation because they are likely to contain documents that reflect the decision-making behind valuations and tax write-offs, which may be important to determine whether there was intent to commit a crime.

Prosecutors have wanted to review the documents before calling key witnesses before the grand jury, people familiar with the inquiry said. Under New York law witnesses are granted "transactional immunity" and cannot be prosecuted for any crimes relating to their testimony as a grand jury witness. Once prosecutors have those documents, they can begin to take those steps.

Still, it will take investigators time to review the records and piece it together with other documents and testimony. The Trump Organization is comprised of dozens of limited liability companies, each with their own financial statements and tax returns.

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This is the Manhattan DA , so possible state charges. The DOJ' s policy about not indicting a sitting president More likely order Barr to have the DA and anyone involved in the case arrested on grounds of It also means Trump can't pardon his way out of it. If they arrest Trump company officials

Prosecutors from Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance Jr.' s office raised that possibility as they said that a grand jury subpoena seeking eight years of Trump ' s tax returns and other records from the president' s accountants should be allowed by a federal appeals court , which is set to hear arguments in this case this week. The filings said that if misstatements about business properties were conveyed from the Trump Organization' s headquarters in New York to business partners, insurers, potential lenders or tax authorities, that could mean the breaking of state laws such as scheme to defraud, falsification of

Mazars said in a statement that it "remains committed to fulfilling all of our professional and legal obligations."

Trump, in a statement, said, "For more than two years, New York City has been looking at almost every transaction I've ever done, including seeking tax returns which were done by among the biggest and most prestigious law and accounting firms in the U.S." He called the investigation a "fishing expedition."

Following the ruling, Vance said in a tweet, "The work continues."

The clock is ticking

The ruling that denied Trump's last bid to block the subpoena removes a significant hurdle to the criminal investigation, which has been underway for more than two years.

The probe recently picked up momentum with the addition of a new prosecutor experienced in financial investigations and continued interviews with witnesses.

The district attorney's office is investigating whether Trump and the Trump Organization engaged in tax fraud, insurance fraud and other schemes to defraud, including potentially providing false information to financial institutions or banks about the value of certain buildings and assets.

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Prosecutors have said Trump's financial records are critical to their investigation, citing the statute of limitations. Investigators are working with a five-year statute of limitations for most New York state felonies that cover the areas under scrutiny.

As prosecutors have waited for the court to rule, they have subpoenaed records and interviewed employees at Deutsche Bank about Trump loans, and insurance broker Aon, according to multiple sources familiar with the investigation. Deutsche Bank has loaned Trump more than $300 million.

Prosecutors have also subpoenaed Ladder Capital, which has loaned the Trump Organization over $100 million.

In addition, investigators have subpoenaed the Trump Organization for records relating to fees paid to consultants, including Ivanka Trump, these people said.

And more recently prosecutors expanded their inquiry into the tax treatment of a conservation easement the Trump Organization arranged on an estate called Seven Springs in Westchester County, NY.

They've also brought in external experts, by hiring FTI Consulting and earlier this month added Mark Pomerantz, a prominent former federal prosecutor with expertise in complex financial investigations.

Last week, a representative for the New York City mayor confirmed the New York City Tax Commission received a subpoena regarding Trump Organization properties.

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Tax and fraud cases are difficult

Former prosecutors say bringing a tax or financial fraud case is difficult, especially since Trump relied on lawyers and accountants for advice. Adding to that is the complexity of real estate, where there is more leeway in deriving valuations.

In some instances, they say, certain tax write-offs or valuations may on the surface appear suspicious but could turn out to be proper under the law.

Sophisticated lenders also conduct their own internal reviews before extending millions of dollars, former prosecutors say, noting that cases where the lender hasn't suffered a loss are difficult to prove.

Trump is likely to argue there were different legal reasons for valuing a real estate asset one way when seeking a loan to reflect its potential growth but would have a legal basis to value it differently in a tax return when reflecting its current value.

Another open question is whether prosecutors will complete their investigation under Vance's leadership.

Vance's term runs through the end of the year and he is not expected to run for reelection, according to a person familiar with the matter. Several Democratic candidates, including former prosecutors, have already declared their intentions to run to be district attorney.

Supreme Court is still sitting on Trump's tax returns, and justices aren't saying why .
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