Prosecutors zeroing in on Trump are 'escalating' their investigation: report

Prosecutors zeroing in on Trump are 'escalating' their investigation: report
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump walk across the South Lawn of the White House Saturday, Dec. 5, 2020, concluding their trip to Valdosta, Ga. (Official White House Photo by Tia Dufour)

Many articles have been written about the pardons that President Donald Trump is likely to grant during his final weeks in office, including perhaps a preemptive pardon for himself. But presidential pardons only exist at the federal level and not at the state level, which means that a preemptive pardon would have no effect on any charges that might come from a state prosecutor like Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. In an article published in the New York Times this week, journalists William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess and David Enrich report that Vance's office has been "escalating" its investigation of Trump's financial activities.

The reporters explain that prosecutors in Vance's office, according to sources, have interviewed employees of Deutsche Bank and insurance broker Aon — both of which the Trump Organization has had extensive dealings with. According to Rashbaum, Protess and Enrich, those interviews "are the latest indication that once Mr. Trump leaves office, he still faces the potential threat of criminal charges that would be beyond the reach of federal pardons." Vance's office, they report, has "stepped up its efforts, issuing new subpoenas and questioning witnesses, including some before a grand jury, according to the people with knowledge of the matter who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation."

However, the Times journalists note, "It remains unclear whether the office of the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., will ultimately bring charges. The prosecutors have been fighting in court for more than a year to obtain Mr. Trump's personal and corporate tax returns, which they have called central to their investigation. The issue now rests with the Supreme Court."

Rashbaum, Protess and Enrich explain, "Employees of Deutsche Bank and Aon, two corporate giants, could be important witnesses. As two of Mr. Trump's oldest allies — and some of the only mainstream companies willing to do regular business with him — they might offer investigators a rich vein of information about the Trump Organization. There is no indication that either company is suspected of wrongdoing."

Vance's prosecutors, according to Rashbaum, Protess and Enrich, recently "questioned two Deutsche Bank employees about the bank's procedures for making lending decisions, according to a person familiar with the interviews" —and those employees were "experts in the bank's underwriting process" rather than "bankers who worked with the Trump Organization."

According to the journalists, "While the focus of those interviews was not on the relationship with Mr. Trump, bank officials expect Mr. Vance's office to summon them for additional rounds of more specific questions in the near future, the person said."

Trump and many of his allies have accused Vance's office of conducting a baseless fishing expedition, claiming that Vance, a Democrat, is going after the president for partisan political reasons. But Trump's former personal attorney and fixer, Michael Cohen — who is now a blistering critic of the president — has said that Trump could face considerable legal exposure after he leaves the White House. When Cohen testified before Congress in February 2019, he accused Trump of exaggerating the worth of his assets when seeking a loan.

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