POLITICO Josh Gernstein.
A Manhattan prosecutor’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s finances goes beyond ‘hush money’ payments during the 2016 campaign and includes allegations of bank and insurance fraud, according to a court filing Monday.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. emphasized the broad scope of the grand jury investigation as he battles to get access to eight years of financial records related to Trump and his business empire.
A grand jury subpoenaed that information last fall, but Trump filed a federal lawsuit to block the subpoena and unsuccessfully pressed the challenge all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last month, the justices unanimously rejected Trump’s bold claim that — for as long as he serves as president — records about him are absolutely immune from demands by state or local prosecutors.
However, the Supreme Court said Trump can challenge the subpoena on other grounds. His attorneys did so last week, arguing that the subpoena to Trump’s accounting firm Mazars sweeps too broadly.
In Vance’s filing Monday with U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero, the prosecutor rebutted that argument by noting that his office submitted a largely secret declaration to the judge last year indicating that the New York probe is examining a wide array of matters related to the Trump organization and not solely the admission by former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen that he orchestrated ‘hush money’ payments during the 2016 campaign to women claiming they had sexual encounters with Trump.
“Plaintiff’s argument that the Mazars Subpoena is overbroad fails for the additional reason that it rests on the false premise that the grand jury’s investigation is limited to so-called ‘hush-money’ payments made by Michael Cohen on behalf of Plaintiff in 2016,” Vance wrote. “This Court is already aware that this assertion is fatally undermined by undisputed information in the public record.”
Vance’s filing goes on to note that in a court opinion last October, Marrero noted that the subpoenaed information could be of use in examining claims of “alleged insurance and bank fraud by the Trump Organization and its officers.” The district attorney’s submission also cites news articles alleging that Trump routinely used various schemes to inflate the value of his assets when obtaining loans and diminish those values when paying taxes.
The litigation before Marrero now seems to have evolved into an intense race against the election clock, although Vance’s office is careful not to discuss it in those terms and simply to refer to the urgency of the investigation. If the prosecutor can obtain the tax and other financial records weeks or longer before Election Day, he could obtain indictments that might be politically damaging, regardless of whether the president himself is named as a defendant.
But if the litigation drags on, Vance may not be able to make any dramatic steps before early November.
At a telephone hearing last month, Marrero said he was inclined to move the court fight along even faster than the two sides had agreed to. However, he eventually agreed to that schedule, which contemplates another submission from Trump’s attorneys on Aug. 14. The judge could rule soon after that time based on the parties’ written arguments, or he could call a hearing to discuss the issues further.