Steve August 4, 2020

On Monday morning, August 3, the office of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance filed court papers that — according to the New York Times — indicate that it might be investigating President Tweety McTreason for possible fraud. Reporter Jerry Lambe examines that court filing in an article for Law & Crime, discussing the Manhattan DA’s pursuit of Trump’s financial documents and the possible scope of its investigation.

“According to several legal experts,” Lambe explains, “the revelation that the contours of the investigation will include bank and insurance fraud likely spelled ‘bad news’ for Trump and his family business.”

The court filing indicates that Vance’s investigation and his office’s pursuit of Trump’s financial records go way beyond hush money payments to women that Trump, according to his former personal attorney Michael Cohen, had extramarital affairs with: adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

Lambe observes, “While prosecutors did not outright confirm the exact parameters of their probe, the filing stated that any argument grounded in the notion that the investigation is limited to hush money payments is baseless. Referencing the New York Times exposé on the Trump family’s alleged multi-decade tax fraud scheme, prosecutors said they had ample evidence of ‘possibly extensive and protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization.’”

In his article, Lambe notes what some legal experts have had to say about the court filing by the Manhattan DA’s office. Joyce White Vance, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches law at the University of Alabama and is a frequent guest on MSNBC, tweeted:

No surprise Manhattan DA has a fraud investigation. Prosecutors often get leads from news reports. Given the reporting, as the DA says, “there was nothing improper or even unusual about the subpoena” for Trump’s taxes.

— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) August 3, 2020

Interesting legal nuance for those interested in the OLC memo that says POTUS can’t be indicted. Unlikely there will be a direct ruling on it in this context but expect more argument about its rationale, which could steer its fate during the next administration.

— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) August 3, 2020

The report says Trump & his company. That could be just the corp but it’s equally possible other individuals are involved. 2 years ago Trump’s CFO testified in the Cohen case under a grant of immunity, which you only need if you’ve got criminal exposure.

— Joyce Alene (@JoyceWhiteVance) August 3, 2020

Barbara McQuade, a University of Michigan law professor and former federal prosecutor, noted that the court filing indicates that Vance’s investigation of Trump is “broader than hush money.” And McQuade pointed out that Vance’s office has “hired” Walter Dellinger (former assistant attorney general under President Bill Clinton) to appear in court to make arguments in support of subpoenaing Trump’s financial records.

Manhattan DA Vance’s new filing says investigation of Trump is broader than hush money – includes bank and insurance fraud. And he has hired former DOJ AAG Walter Dellinger to appear in subpoena case. Filing fee is best $200 Vance will ever spend.

— Barb McQuade (@BarbMcQuade) August 3, 2020

According to CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig, the court filing indicates that the Manhattan DA’s office “is focused on specific criminal charges and not just poking around the financials.”

Bad news for the President.

This shows the DA is focused on specific criminal charges and not just poking around the financials.

And it’s much easier to build a standard bank fraud or tax fraud case than the complex hush money / campaign finance case.

— Elie Honig (@eliehonig) August 3, 2020

Another former federal prosecutor, Ken White, tweeted that prosecutors at the state level are likely to pursue charges that federal prosecutors wouldn’t:

Here’s one reason the Manhattan DA’s investigation is arguably scarier to Trump than federal investigations: federal prosecutors are famously risk-averse (or, as DAs would put it, “chickenshit”), and far more likely to wait for a extremely strong case to charge.


— IllegalLateNightCoupHat (@Popehat) August 3, 2020


AUSAs REALLY don’t like to lose and many will shy away from all but the strongest cases.

DAs on the other hand … well. They are necessarily much more at peace with losing and tend to have a “eh, let’s throw it in front of a jury and see what happens” attitude.

— IllegalLateNightCoupHat (@Popehat) August 3, 2020

/3 That means DAs will roll the dice on questionable proof and even more questionable legal theories, meaning if the case is marginal, and it could be a state or federal crime, it’s far more likely a DA will charge you than an AUSA.


— IllegalLateNightCoupHat (@Popehat) August 3, 2020

Attorney Mark Zaid pointed out that according to the Associated Press, the Manhattan DA’s office is looking for evidence of “protracted criminal conduct at the Trump Organization” and tweeted, “The horses have most definitely left the gates and are racing towards the finish line.”

The horses have most definitely left the gates and are racing towards the finish line.

“Protracted criminal conduct”

Let that sink in.

— Mark S. Zaid (@MarkSZaidEsq) August 3, 2020

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